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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Judicial decisions: consumer protection

< previous | next > 29.06.2018

Judicial decisions: consumer protection
  • Terg, Polmlek Grudziądz, PTS, T-Mobile.
  • These are the undertakings that were subject to judicial decisions following UOKiK's decisions concerning consumer protection

Terg – Ref. No. VII AGa 1088/18

The first judicial decision relates to the decision of October 2014 in the proceedings against Terg – owner of the online shop electro.pl. UOKiK impugned the advertisement informing about free shipping of goods. The promotional offer was supposed to be valid for a limited, short time only, e.g. for 48 hours. Therefore, consumers might have been led to believe that such an attractive offer might not come again and that they must decide to purchase products immediately. However, it was not a unique opportunity, as after the end of one promotional another one followed immediately. Altogether, the shop offered free shipping for more than a month. In the view of UOKiK, electro.pl should have provided accurate information on the actual duration of the promotional offer to its customers, allowing them more time to make the decision to purchase. UOKiK imposed a fine in the amount of PLN 349,088 on the company. After the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection dismissed the appeal in May 2017, the undertaking appealed against the dismissal. In May 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of UOKiK. In the oral statement of grounds, the Court explained that shipping costs played an important part in making the decision to purchase a particular product. Furthermore, the Court ruled that UOKiK had determined the amount of the imposed fine correctly.

Polmlek Grudziądz – Ref. No. VII AGa 962/18

The next judicial decision was issued in the case concerning appeals against the judicial decision of the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection of October 2016 which had been lodged by both parties to the proceedings. The judicial decision related to the decision of December 2014, in which UOKiK found that the butter produced by Polmlek Grudziądz (formerly Masmal Dairy) was adulterated with vegetable fat and that the producer provided consumers with misleading information. The proceedings of UOKiK were initiated in October 2013 after UOKiK received information from inspectorates of the Trade Inspection Authority. Employees of the Authority collected samples of the butter produced by Masmal Dairy directly from selected shops across Poland. The analysis revealed that e.g. “Masło ekstra”, “Masło ekstra 100% oryginalne” and “Masło ekstra Amir” contained 61.8%, 14% and 11.73% vegetable fat, respectively. The law stipulates that such products cannot be called butter, and yet the labels of Masmal Dairy products misled consumers into thinking they were buying butter. In connection with violation of the collective interests of consumers, a fine amounting to PLN 1,471,250 was imposed on Masmal Dairy. The President of UOKiK ordered the undertaking to cease misleading customers. The Court of Competition and Consumer Protection agreed with the findings and opinion of UOKiK, but it lowered the fine to PLN 1,103,437.50. In the statement of grounds, the Court noted that the company had discontinued the impugned practice following UOKiK’s decision. In May 2018, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of the undertaking and at the same time acknowledged the appeal of UOKiK. The Court changed the judicial decision of the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection and restored the fine to the amount imposed by UOKiK. In the oral statement of grounds, the Court of Appeal concluded that discontinuation of the practice and implementation of organisational changes following UOKiK’s decision should not affect the amount of the fine.

PTS – Ref. No. XVII Ama 36/15

The third decision pertains to the decision of December 2014, issued in the proceedings against Polska Telefonia Stacjonarna. UOKiK received more than 700 complaints concerning the company’s practices. Investigation of UOKiK confirmed that representatives of PTS had implied that they were representatives of a given consumer’s existing operator and offered a lower subscription fee. PTS concluded contracts with consumers through couriers who delivered the relevant documents (contract, regulations, price list, model cancellation form, terms and conditions of the promotional offer) to the clients’ flats. UOKiK established that after signature of the contract by consumers, PTS couriers would take all or some of the documents with them. Copies thereof would be sent to the clients after the fourteen-day cancellation period. In the opinion of UOKiK, the company’s practice hindered the clients of PTS from exercising their right to withdraw from a contract concluded off the undertaking’s premises. UOKiK also found, for example, that the regulations constituting an appendix to the contract were written in too small a font and the layout of the document rendered it more difficult for consumers to familiarise themselves with the content thereof. The President of UOKiK ordered PTS to discontinue the impugned practices and imposed a fine in the amount of PLN 354,679 on the company. In June 2018, the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection issued a decision dismissing the appeal of the undertaking. In the oral statement of grounds, the Court explained that the accusations included in the decision against PTS had been confirmed by witnesses. The company is fully liable for the actions of its representatives. Despite being aware of the irregularities due to the numerous consumer complaints, the undertaking failed to take any corrective action. The fine imposed by way of the decision is adequate for the company’s offences.

T-Mobile – Ref. No. XVII AmA 39/16

The last judicial decision relates to the decision of December 2015, in which UOKiK found T-Mobile Polska guilty of violation of the collective interests of consumers. The operator informed its clients of unilateral amendment to the terms and conditions of the contract for provision of telecommunication services consisting in an increase of the subscription fee. In the opinion of UOKiK, the undertaking did not have the right to make such amendments to contracts concluded for a definite and indefinite time. The content of the contracts concluded for an indefinite time did not provide grounds for such amendment as it did not include a relevant modification clause. Consumers who have concluded a contract for a definite time, meanwhile, are entitled to performance thereof under the same conditions until termination of the contract. Therefore, as a rule such contracts should not be amended in the scope of the essential elements thereof (e.g. the price). Unilateral amendment by the company of the terms and conditions of contracts concluded with consumers violated the principles of decency as it depended on the will of the undertaking only. The President of UOKiK imposed a fine amounting to more than PLN 4.5 million on the operator and ordered it to pay compensation in the amount of PLN 65 to each consumer who had received notification of the unilateral change of the amount of subscription fee. In May 2018, the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection acknowledged the company’s appeal and repealed the decision of UOKiK in full. In the statement of grounds, the Court concluded that unilateral amendment to the terms and conditions of contracts by the company was permissible. In the opinion of the Court, UOKiK did not provide sufficient evidence that the actions of T-Mobile had violated the collective interests of consumers or the principles of decency.

Judicial decisions database

Since November 2015, a judicial decisions database is available on the UOKiK website. It contains information on all decisions concerning competition-restricting practices, control of concentration, infringement of the collective interests of consumers and cases concerning recognition of prohibited clauses (in which the President of UOKiK was the claimant). The database is available under the “Prawo/Baza wyroków” tab on the Polish version of the UOKiK website: http://decyzje.uokik.gov.pl/bp/wyroki.nsf. Detailed information on the publication of judicial decisions is provided in the document entitled Rules on providing information on the judicial review of the decisions issued by the President of UOKiK.

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa
Phone: +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 345
Email: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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