Interviews

Patrik Nacher: We Live in Strange Hyper-Correct Time

Published: 3. 4. 2020
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: archives of Patrik Nacher
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Patrik Nacher goes by the motto that no one can achieve anything by posting here and there on social networks or over a beer in a pub. He has been arguing for decades to improve financial literacy in the society, and has been arguing successfully against the most ridiculous bank charges. And he’s been doing well in it!

Patrik, you seem to have been born to ”serve” of the society. When did you become interested in politics?

That was already at the grammar school, in 1989. We were the first grammar school in Prague to launch a ’strike alert’, or whatever it was called. I have always been convinced that each of us has the opportunity to influence what is happening in our society. It’s like betting. People bet, even though they know that the chance to win is one in a million, and yet they try it over and over. And also in politics, an active person can do something positive, even if they are one in a million. Only once s/he fails to do so can s/he ”swear”. Trying is important! Therefore, since 1996 I’ve worked as a press secretary and spokesman for the ODS and I founded a group for young members.

But then you left politics and started the well-known server BankovniPoplatky.com, which pointed out the outrageous and nonsensical bank charges. That's what people probably remember most about you, right?

I left my political background in 2005 because politics began to go in a completely different direction than I had imagined. The original enthusiasm had vanished. As the operator of BankovniPoplatky.com I got into the public space from a completely different angle. People suddenly noticed me from a different perspective and saw that a particular person was interested in their ordinary affairs and was trying to help them. This is precisely the proof that even if one person is addressing a problem permanently, sufficiently vigorously and in a sophisticated form, s/he can influence or trigger a process that will lead to improvement. Thanks to my activity, many bank fees have been canceled and the environment for bank clients has significantly improved. 

But in 2014 you returned to politics. This time you were repeatedly addressed by the current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to join the ANO (YES) 2011 movement. What convinced you to accept his offer?

At the beginning of the ANO movement I was very pleased that successful entrepreneurs and people, who no longer needed to solve their livelihoods or gain new contacts through politics, entered it. I, too, was known in public for my “fight” with bank charges and had no need to make myself visible. Either way, my current political engagement is my premiere. Before, I was not a politician in elected office; and, it’s true that entering into politics gave me quite some disillusion. Previously, as a “bank guard”, people patted me on the shoulder and I was popular. Now, as a Czech MP and a member of the Prague City Assembly, I am working on several problems at the same time and people's reactions are half and half. People simply do not evaluate the content; they count me as a politicians and member of ANO. Appreciating politicians is simply not cool these days. Sometimes I also encounter aggressive reactions, despite me “playing” for citizens and dealing with burning topics helping them. On the other hand, I get a lot of support from people who write to me and appreciate my activities in the House or the Municipality.

Isn't it also that people have more of a tendency these days to judge people by what they have done or if they tell the truth, but rather by where they belong?

Yes, it is all about the logic of the black and white world, where the same thought is perceived differently depending on who said it. Double standard and selectivity are “normal” today in almost everything, and I find that horrible. We are living in a strange hyper-correct time, publicly solving the issue of how to address person who feels to be neither male nor female, and politicians consider it the right thing to do. On the other hand, however, the same politicians neither mind someone’s mocking the president for being old, nor when someone drops hints about death. I could go on with the examples. Just imagine if I, as a politician, called names somewhere, everyone would accuse me, saying that the ANO movement is becoming tasteless. Pavel Novotný, an eccentric member of the ODS and the mayor of Řeporyje, curses day after day and nothing really happens.

In your opinion, do the media still have the influence that is attributed to them?

Keeping the media in check is no longer enough. People find other sources of information on social networks, as it was evident in Donald Trump's election as president of the United States or Brexit. Back then the media was claiming the exact opposite of how the elections and the referendum would end. Recently, however, we could witness the European Union and here too has been effort to tighten and censor the Internet. There is a clear tendency to indoctrinate what one should think and what one should say. Sometimes it is enough to look at the political debates on public television, where three representatives of "the same direction" communicate and are on the same page. But this way we can never reach critical thinking and plurality of opinions. I am convinced that if I do not violate the laws of this country, or encourage violence, racism or xenophobia, social network operators should not have the right to delete my posts or block my account.

Thanks to social networks, the campaign “A Million Moments for Democracy” has also begun. What do you make of it?

It is a proof that there is democracy and freedom in our country. And that's okay. But I would like to remind you that their spokespersons and organizers are not being persecuted, kicked out of work, some make a living by this activity and have incredible media coverage. Elected politicians can only dream of that. I have absolutely nothing against people's freedom of expression, but it bothers me a bit that there is a discrepancy between the degree of influence and power on the one hand and the degree of responsibility on the other. We politicians have a real responsibility for how we vote, why we propose or pass certain bills, voters follow every word, every opinion and decision. A Million Moments long to influence public affairs, but they do not want to bear the responsibility and cannot, because its members do not run for anything. I would like the people of the Million to go to politics for a while, to run for their interests. Having a speech in the square is fine, but it is much harder to do something and discuss with critics, find compromises, new possibilities and solutions.

You have been striving for years for financial literacy and public comprehension of banking as to provide new opportunities. Can politicians influence the behavior of banks towards clients?

Not in pricing, but indirectly, we try to do everything we can to make it better for consumers. And this happened thanks to the amendment to the Consumer Credit Act, the Insolvency Act which has been amended twice. We have been looking into the amendment of the Enforcement Procedure Code, laws relating to so called "bastards", the repossession environment was cultivated, distrainer remuneration and legal rates have been reduced as part of consumer protection. Ahead of us is a bill on strengthening consumer rights and merging multiple disputes into one, so called ‘collective redress’.

You were personally involved in scandalous debt traps, where even a six-year-old child was burdened with distraint. What is the current situation like?

We have renewed the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and have managed to stop child distraint, which I think is immoral. In the swift approval process, we changed the amendment to the Insolvency Act throughout the Chamber of Deputies, which will help child debtors, if they are already in repossession process, to quickly discharge their debts. And we are discussing that parents (legal guardians) should be responsible for children under fifteen. I transferred this matter to the City Council. City of Prague, where all present representatives unanimously entrusted the Council of the City of Prague to stop child distraint enforcement in the capital city of Prague, which was successful in one hundred and fifty cases of the Prague Transport Company. I consider this a success.

How are we doing with repossessions in general? Has the plight around them improved?

We have a lot of work to do! We have over one hundred and thirty-three thousand invalid repossessions, which are based on an unlawful arbitration award. Although the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court stated that a non-transparently elected arbitrator and arbitration award cannot be the basis for repossession, nevertheless such repossessions are still being conducted. In addition, there are several hundreds of thousands of repossessions, and perhaps more, which have been five, but also seven years or more unenforceable. If the debtor is poor, the bailiff does not recover anything anyway. The debt is increasing and harming all parties, including the lender. Even if the creditor wished to stop the proceedings, s/he would incur additional costs in relation to the legal and bailiff fees. All would therefore be relieved if these enforcements were cleared. Our goal is to make order in the distraint process and try to keep people in distraint and insolvency from running into the gray zone. That is also why I have proposed to increase the non-recoverable amount. We want to help a responsible borrower who does not deliberately fall into debt, as well as not to harm serious creditors.

Let's lighten the conversation a bit. How often do your children and wife see you?

Not very often, but I take the children into my places of work and show them what my work involves. They have been with me in the Chamber of Deputies, the City Hall, the Office of the Government and once also at Prague Castle. Recently my almost six-year-old son, who likes money very much (probably after me), went with me to the Czech National Bank. I spend time with my family especially at weekends, but it's not the rule, unfortunately.

Do you manage to relax a bit?

Last January, I made my lifelong dream come true, which helps me survive all the mental stress. I also play the drums and I really enjoy it.

Patrik Nacher (born on 17th October 1974 in Prague) is the representative of the City of Prague and an MP.

He graduated from the Banking Institute (2006).

Since 1996 he has been working in the field of media and marketing, and for the last fourteen years he has been working with consumer issues and banking.

He was an advisor to Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mareš, and media advisor to Defense Minister Karel Kühnl.

Since 2005 he has been working for the National Council of People with Disabilities of the Czech Republic.

He operates several websites, the most famous of which has been dealing with banks, fees and increasing financial autonomy and literacy of consumers.

He co-owned the first left-hand high street shop in Central Europe.

He participates in projects to increase the financial literacy of Czech consumers, such as the TV programme Suma sumárum or Where my money goes. He is the co-author of a series published in Lidové noviny.

He is the author of the books “End of Financial Illiterates in Bohemia” (2015) and “Madness of the Correct Time” (2018).

In the Chamber, he is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

He is married and has a daughter and a son.

 

Senior Fitness

Patrik Nacher recently supported the project Senior Fitness. He wore a jersey and football trainers and tried walking football on the pitch. “I was invited by the team of Czech champions, Senior Fitness. It was great. I felt my calves more than when running, I had my heart rate all the time at the rate of burning fat, and the balloon was flying as fast as it was with classical football, ”the politician confided. The aim of the Senior Fitness project is to create conditions for physical activities of seniors and individuals in presenior age, including the management of reconditioning rehabilitation programmes. They also organize leisure, cultural and social activities.


The Most Ridiculous Charge

It was a public poll organized by Patrik Nacher in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on www.bankovnipoplatky.com. The task of the survey was to map the attitudes of bank clients and, to a certain extent, to push banks to relax their fee policy. The first year took place in 2005, the poll was closed in 2017, with the Czech market undergoing positive changes. The most ridiculous fee was announced to be the fee for deposit into account. Patrik Nacher renewed and modernized www.bankovnipoplatky.com in 2020. New content includes the renewed poll for the Most Ridiculous Fee, launched in early February. "I would like social  actors, singers or other celebrities to share some of their personal experiences. And I would like to focus on insurance companies, too," he says.

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