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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Consumer protection in Poland

There are two paths of consumer enforcement in Poland. The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), as a central government administration body responsible for implementing the consumer protection policy and acting in public interest, initiates administrative proceedings concerning infringements of the collective consumer interests. Such practices are defined as unlawful activities of a trader resulting in harm to the interests of an unspecified number of people, i.e. all potential (current and future) customers of a given company. On the other hand, an individual consumer seeking redress to his/her claims may obtain free legal assistance from a local consumer ombudsman or a non-governmental consumer organisation, choose mediation or arbitration (ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution) or even file a court action.

The Act of 16 February 2007 on competition and consumer protection (Journal of Laws of 2007, No. 50, item 331) enumerates three examples of practices infringing collective consumer interests:

  • application of standard contract terms that have been entered in the Register of Prohibited Clauses; 
  • distributing inaccurate, false or incomplete information;
  • unfair commercial practices or acts of unfair competition.

Proceedings concerning infringements of collective consumer interests - as in case of practices restricting competition - are instituted ex officio. However, anyone may submit a written notification constituting a basis for intervention. In consequence, the President of the Office may issue a decision recognizing the practice as infringing collective consumer interests and impose a fine of up to 10% of the trader’s revenue in the preceding year. If a trader fails to conform to the decision, the President of the Office may impose a fine of up to 10 000 euro per each day of the delay.

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection cooperates with municipal and district consumer ombudsmen and non-governmental consumer organisations co-financed by the State Budget (Polish Consumer Federation, Association of Polish Consumers) that provide free legal assistance in individual cases. The Office grants funds to NGO’s for performing public tasks, the purpose of which is to promote and protect consumer rights. Moreover, the Office also provided consumer organisations with funds for their own contribution in projects co-financed by the EU.

The President of The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection is also entitled to monitor standard contract terms used by traders in transactions with consumers (which means all documents such as rules, regulations and pricelists, defining rights and obligations of the parties). As a result, lawsuits demanding that some contractual clauses be declared abusive are submitted to the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection. Contractual clauses declared abusive and placed within the Register of Abusive Clauses may no longer be used in relations with consumers.

Finally, every year the UOKiK is consulted on hundreds of draft laws ensuring that the interests of consumers taken into account. The Office also initiates legislative changes aimed at providing weaker market participants with the most comprehensive protection.