The plaintiff and the intervener of the case-at-issue (Taiwan Yilan District Court Order 106-Su-476, hereinafter referred to as the Final Order) are spouses, who entered into a contract for preferential-rate deposits (hereinafter referred to as the Deposit Contract) with Yilan Branch of the Bank of Taiwan Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the Bank of Taiwan) on February 1, 2012 and December 16, 2011, respectively, thereby opening veteran’s pension preferential-rate deposit (hereinafter referred to as the Preferential Deposit) accounts, the terms of which ran from February 1, 2012 till February 1, 2014, and from December 16, 2011 till December 16, 2013, respectively. The first page of the Deposit Contract account passbook indicated the amount, maturity date, interest rate, etc., for the Preferential Deposit. The plaintiff and the intervener maintained that, upon the expiry of the respective Deposit Contracts, the Bank of Taiwan merely notified them that they should sign a “letter of consent for deposit renewal” by registered mail and voice messages through landline, but failed to so notify them by AR registered mail or at their mobile phone numbers on the record, nor did the bank advise them through constructive notice. For this reason, they were not aware that their respective Preferential Deposits had expired until August 30, 2016, and they then renewed the Preferential Deposits on September 2 of that same year. Subsequently, the Bank of Taiwan refused to pay off the preferential interests for the period from the original maturity date till the day before the deposit renewal date on the basis of the Ministry of National Defense Letter Kuo-Tzu-Jen-Li-1050001854 of May 27, 2016, indicating that Article 8, Paragraph 4, Subparagraph 2 of the Regulation on Preferential Deposits in Respect of the One-Off Payments of Retirement Pensions and Old-Age Benefits for Retired Public Functionaries as jointly prescribed and issued by the Examination Yuan and the Executive Yuan on February 1, 2011, and Article 8, Paragraph 4, Subparagraph 2 of the Regulation on Preferential Deposits in Respect of the One-Off Payments of Retirement Pensions and Old-Age Benefits for Retired Faculty and Staff Members of Public Schools as prescribed and issued by the Ministry of Education on the same date should apply mutatis mutandis, which provides, “Where the formalities for deposit renewal are not completed within two years after the expiry of the maturity date, the interests shall be calculated at the preferential rate from the date when the formalities for deposit renewal are completed.” Therefore, the plaintiff brought an action before the Taiwan Yilan District Court (hereinafter referred to as Yilan District Court), in respect of which his spouse intervened, whereby the plaintiff claimed from the Bank of Taiwan, Yilan Branch, the payment of interests at the preferential rate of eighteen percent per annum, calculated from March 1, 2014 for the plaintiff, and from December 16, 2013 for the intervener, till September 1, 2016 for both.
After Yilan District Court heard the case, it was of the opinion that “the Bank of Taiwan, as well as its various branches, is commissioned by the government to exercise public authority by entering into a contract for preferential-rate deposits and then paying off interests on a monthly basis while handling the preferential-rate deposits; that it is, by nature, a contract entered into for the purposes of creating, altering, or invalidating the rights or obligations under public law, hence qualifying it as an administrative contract rather than a private-law contract; that, in other words, the contract entered into between a holder of the Preferential Deposit account and the Bank of Taiwan, which is commissioned to process such deposits, is a public-law contract indirectly made under the Regulation on Preferential Savings Deposits in Respect of the Disbursements and Insurance Payments for Retired Members of Armed Forces; that, as such, the action brought by the plaintiff, which demanded that the defendant pay off the preferential deposit interests for pension to the plaintiff and the intervener during the periods mentioned above, should be regarded as a dispute arising between the plaintiff and the defendant out of the aforesaid administrative contract under public law; and that, in light of the foregoing explanations, such a dispute should be resolved by means of administrative litigation procedure.” Furthermore, said court, after seeking the opinions of both parties, decided to transfer the case ex officio to the Taipei High Administrative Court by the Final Order mentioned above when both parties had expressed that the cause of action is a dispute resulting from an administrative contract under public law.
Nonetheless, after the Taipei High Administrative Court heard the case, it held the view that “the Bank of Taiwan, Yilan Branch, which is commissioned by the Ministry of National Defense to handle preferential-rate time deposits for veterans’ pensions, simply takes the position as an institution accepting deposits, whereby handling the savings for preferential-rate deposits in accordance with policies of the administrative authority without having any decision-making power for such preferential-rate deposits; that, therefore, no exercise of public authority is involved, and the making of a contract for deposits is merely intended to handle the savings of the preferential-rate deposits, which, by nature, falls within the scope of a deposit for consumption and a loan for consumption under civil law, rather than an administrative contract; and that, as such, it should a contractual relationship under private law, and hence subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction.” Consequently, it ordered a stay of the litigation proceedings in accordance with Article 178 of the Administrative Court Procedure Act under the Taipei High Administrative Court Order 106-Su-1780 (2017), and filed a petition for uniform interpretation with this Court on the ground that, while exercising its power to hear the case, it found that it had held a differing view from that of the Final Order issued by Yilan District Court. As we decide that said petition satisfies the requirements for uniform interpretation under Article 7, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 1 of the Constitutional Court Procedure Act and Article 178 of the Administrative Court Procedure Act, the petition is thus accepted and this Interpretation is made for the reasons set forth below:
At present, a bifurcated litigation system is being adopted in this country. The division of jurisdictions over civil actions and administrative actions should be determined by the legislative branch after taking into consideration the natures of disputes and the functions of existing litigation system comprehensively (such as court organizations, personnel allocation, relevant procedural rules, timely and effective protection of rights, etc.) Where the law is silent, the path to seeking relief should be determined based on the nature of the dispute while taking into account the functions of the existing litigation system. In other words, a dispute arising from relations governed by private law shall, in principle, be adjudicated by a court of general jurisdiction, whereas a dispute arising out of relations governed by public law shall, in principle, be tried by an administrative court (see J.Y. Interpretations Nos. 695, 758, 759, 772, and 773).
As we have found that no express provision of any law specifies whether the dispute arising out of the Deposit Contract should be adjudicated by a court of general jurisdiction or an administrative court, the jurisdiction over said dispute shall be determined based on the nature thereof, as is made clear by the aforesaid interpretations made by this Court.
This dispute arises out of the claims made by the plaintiff against the defendant, i.e., the Bank of Taiwan, Yilan Branch, demanding that the defendant pay off the plaintiff’s and the intervener’s preferential interests for pensions during specific periods based on the “Bank of Taiwan Account Opening Application and General Agreement for Preferential Savings Integrated Deposits” entered into by the plaintiff and the intervener, respectively, with the defendant. The legal action concerns the claims raised by the plaintiff and the intervener against the defendant for payment of preferential interests, as well as the issue of whether the defendant’s payment obligations exist. The legal nature of the issues raised in the action shall be determined based on the legal status of both parties, as well as the basis of claim pleaded by the plaintiff.
The defendant is a branch of the Bank of Taiwan, which, by nature, is a private juridical person but is not an administrative authority defined under Article 2 of the Administrative Procedure Act. Unless otherwise commissioned by an administrative authority to exercise public authority in accordance with statutorily prescribed procedure, the defendant is not in a position to achieve the status of a fictitious administrative authority (see Article 2, Paragraphs 2 and 3, and Article 16 of the Administrative Procedure Act). Granted that the Bank of Taiwan handles the affairs in respect of the Preferential Deposit for the veterans’ pensions and the payments of interests, the contents thereof concern no more than the calculations and payments of the deposits and interests of the parties’ after the openings of the Preferential Deposit accounts, which has nothing to do with the exercise of any public authority. Furthermore, since the Ministry of National Defense does not commission any part of its statutory powers and authorities, it does not qualify as the commission of public authority set forth under Article 16, Paragraph 1 of the Administrative Procedure Act. Hence, the Bank of Taiwan does not achieve the status of a fictitious administrative authority by handling the affairs in respect of the Preferential Deposit payments for the veterans’ pensions. As such, where a retired service member entered into a contract for preferential-rate deposits with the Bank of Taiwan, such a contract, by nature, is a private-law contract. Accordingly, the dispute of the case at issue which arises out of the Deposit Contract for the payment of the preferential deposit interests is one arising out of a relationship under private law. Such an action shall be heard and tried by Yilan District Court, which is a court of general jurisdiction.
*Translated by Vincent C. KUAN