Consumer protection

The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) is a central government authority responsible for implementing the consumer protection policy and acting in public interest. UOKiK initiates administrative proceedings concerning infringements of the collective consumer interests and abusive clauses. UOKiK develops legal acts to better protect consumer interests. The Office also participates in the legislative process of other governmental and non-governmental institutions.

UOKiK cooperates with municipal and district consumer ombudsmen and non-governmental consumer organisations. The Office commissions consumer organisations through a competition to carry out tasks aimed at promoting consumer rights and providing legal assistance. The President of the Office also monitors the out-of-court dispute resolution system involving undertakings (Alternative Dispute Resolution – ADR) and provides advice on cross-border issues within the European Consumer Centre (ECC-Net).

UOKiK ensures the safety of products and services, and the interventions and controls undertaken cover various market sectors.

Infringement of collective interests of consumers occurs when an unlawful or inconsistent with good practices action of an undertaking affects a certain group (e.g., customers of a particular undertaking) or an unlimited number of consumers (potentially anyone can be affected). 

An example of the infringement of collective interests of consumers would be a customer service system that, in practice, makes it impossible to file a complaint against a disputed telephone bill. What it will not be, however, is a miscalculation of the cost of a call for an individual customer or unclear wording used in a particular contract – these are individual matters.
Practices that infringe collective interests of consumers may include, in particular:

  • breach of the obligation to provide consumers with reliable, truthful and complete information,
  • unfair market practices,
  • proposing to consumers financial services which do not match the needs of those consumers as determined on the basis of information available to the undertaking about the characteristics of those consumers or proposing purchase of services in a manner unsuitable for the nature of those services.

The President of UOKiK carries out proceedings in cases of practices that infringe collective interests of consumers. These proceedings may be concluded with ordering the enterprise involved to cease the questioned activities and to pay a fine or a commitment of an enterprise to voluntarily change its behaviour to eliminate infringements. Decisions of the President of the Office may also provide for the application of public compensation as a means of eliminating the effects of an infringement. 

The UOKiK identifies infringements, in particular, by analysing signals from the market, including notifications from consumers.

The President of UOKiK also issues important opinions in consumer protection court cases.  

Consumers have the option of notifying UOKiK of a suspected practice that infringes collective interests of consumers. In individual cases, the consumer can benefit from free legal help

In many areas of life, consumers do not have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the proposed contract. Their role boils down to signing the contract according to the contract template or rejecting it altogether. The template can be the contract itself as well as its appendices, such as regulations or general terms and conditions. They are widely used, inter alia, by banks, telephone operators, gas and electricity suppliers. As regards contract templates, there is a danger that the undertaking will impose on the consumer provisions that are detrimental to them.

Therefore, clauses that have not been negotiated individually are not binding for the consumer if they shape their rights and obligations in a way that is contrary to good customs and grossly violate their interests. Such contractual clauses are referred to as abusive clauses. Examples include clauses that exclude the undertaking’s liability for non-performance or inadequate performance of an obligation. It should be emphasised that clauses defining the main obligations of the parties, including price or remuneration, cannot be considered abusive if they are formulated in an unambiguous manner.

The President of UOKiK conducts proceedings on the recognition of model contractual clauses as abusive. The authority decides, by way of administrative decision, whether a clause is of an abusive nature and whether to prohibit its further use. A decision of UOKiK declaring a model contractual clause to be prohibited has effect only with respect to an undertaking who applied it and with respect to all consumers who entered into a contract with them pursuant to a clause indicated in the decision. This is the so-called abstract control of the model contractual clauses. In its rulings, the President of UOKiK may also specify measures to eliminate the ongoing effects of the undertaking’s unlawful practice and impose a fine on the undertaking. Decisions of the President of UOKiK are published on the website.

Prior to the entry into force of the amended Act on Competition and Consumer Protection, i.e., before 17 April 2016, the prohibited nature of contractual clauses was decided by the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection (SOKiK). Contractual clauses declared illegal by a final judgment of the SOKiK were entered in the Register of prohibited clauses and from that moment their use in trade with consumers has been prohibited.

Consumers have the option to notify UOKiK of a suspected application of illegal clauses in contract templates. In individual cases, the consumer can benefit from free legal help