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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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UOKiK in 2015 - an overview

< previous | next > 29.09.2016

UOKiK in 2015 - an overview

The Authority issued 1095 competition and consumer protection decisions, undertook 581 soft interventions, and imposed fines exceeding 47 million PLN [ca. 11 million EUR].

Antitrust proceedings are a basic instrument Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) employs in protecting competition. Such proceedings can result in the Authority ordering an undertaking to cease a practice as well as the levying of fines. In 2015, UOKiK initiated 177 preliminary proceedings and 34 antitrust proceedings. Of the latter, 23 related to the abuse of a dominant market position, while 11 concerned prohibited agreements. The Office also received two applications for leniency, which consists in the milder treatment of a party to an unlawful agreement that comes forward to cooperate with the Office.

In soft interventions, on the other hand, the Authority calls on the undertaking to voluntarily change or eliminate an unfair practice. The advantage of this tool is that it solves problems more quickly than a full-blown proceedings, which may be subject to judicial review. UOKiK conducted 58 such competition-related interventions last year, and brought 52 to a conclusion. “Soft interventions assume the common will of the Office and undertakings to eliminate an activity we are disputing. With the negotiating approach, nearly 100 percent of them complied with our recommendations”, explains Bernadeta Kasztelan-Świetlik, Vice-President of UOKiK.

Concentration control

Of the 228 concentration applications to undergo UOKiK control proceedings in 2015, 218 were approved outright and one conditionally. The amended Act on competition and consumer protection ushered in a two-phase approach to the approval procedure, which reduced the average time of proceedings to 34 days — down from 57 in 2014. In more straightforward cases, a decision is issued within a month, while more complex ones may be extended by additional four months. The most numerous applications were received from the real estate industry (24), chemicals (18) and banking and financial services (13).

State aid

State aid is state interference in the mechanisms of the free market, and is therefore applied in a limited range of cases. UOKiK carries out a preliminary assessment of individual aid and aid programmes to determine their compliance with EU law; it also monitors state aid. In 2015, UOKiK received 594 requests for its interpretation and 503 drafts of government legislative initiatives for analysis. The European Commission was notified about 15 of the projects, two of which were for individual aid (including ones for restructuring) while another eight were for aid programmes.

Consumer protection

In 2015, the financial, energy and telecommunications and e-commerce sectors came under UOKiK’s scrutiny. The Authority initiated 106 proceedings concerning practices infringing collective consumer interests, and 473 preliminary proceedings. It issued 144 decisions, including 80 obliging traders to change a practice. Another 24 ordered the cessation of prohibited activities and 40 the discontinuation of a practice. Soft interventions also figured prominently in the protection of consumer interests: of the 523 conducted, 357 were completed, with 98 percent of them following UOKiK’s indications.

In 2015, UOKiK gained the power to order companies to compensate the public. This form of compensation benefits consumers by removing the existing effects of a prohibited practice and putting an end to the practice itself. According to UOKiK Vice-President Dorota Karczewska, “traders who violate consumers' economic interests should compensate them for the damage they have caused. This means real benefits for consumers. Last year, we used this tool to reduce the fees 16 insurance companies charged policy-holders to cancel unit-linked life insurance policies”.

Controlling contracts to ensure legality constitutes another important consumer protection tool. In 2015, the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection recognized 305 clauses as abusive and entered them into the register of abusive clauses, including 60 filed by UOKiK. On the basis of controls, 202 summons were issued to change contract provisions, which in 121 cases the parties voluntarily did. 100 of the illegal contracts concerned e-commerce, while others were for services, business to consumer sales and real estate.

Product safety

UOKiK’s consumer protection umbrella also covers product safety. In 2015, the Authority conducted 290 controls in the field of general product safety. Most looked at children's clothes (148), electrical accessories (41) and furniture (35). 2015 saw UOKiK issue 122 decisions, 21 of which required traders to take corrective measures, including withdrawing a product from the market, and 18 of which imposed fines. Many cases were suspended as a result of companies eliminating the threat their product posed. In 2015, traders made 134 voluntary notifications, most of which, as in previous years, concerned motor vehicles (114).

UOKiK monitors non-food products for their compliance with the essential requirements set out in the New Approach directives. In 2015, the Authority handled 461 cases in this area, and issued 325 decisions. Toys (233 cases), individual protection products (59) and electrical equipment (57) were the most problematic.

Together with the Trade Inspection, UOKiK is also active in the field of food control. The two institutions conducted 18 controls of agricultural products across Poland, including two — fish and honey — that were also pursued at the EU level. The Office also helped traders clarify new food labeling regulations. In 2015, UOKiK and the Trade Inspection also carried out 11 national controls on non-food products and services. 117 enterprises selling equipment or car parts requiring approval were controlled. Of the 441 products placed on the market, 90 were questioned.

Fuel quality

UOKiK also manages Poland’s system for monitoring and controlling fuel quality. The results of inspections carried out in 2015 showed that LPG fuel was challenged more often than gasoline. 2.79 percent of the gasoline and diesel fuel samples taken during 933 inspections failed to meet quality requirements while 3.91 percent of the LPG sampled in 486 inspections proved substandard. UOKiK issued 86 decisions, and the traders were required to cover the cost of testing if the fuel samples did not meet quality requirements.

Legislation

As an organ of the central administration, UOKiK plays an active role in the legislative process. In 2015, on the initiative of the Authority, work was initiated on the Amendment to the Act on competition and consumer protection and amended consumer protection provisions in the civil code, and draft legislation guidelines to the Amendment to the Act on consumer credit. UOKiK expressed its opinion on a total of 1449 projects and its position on Sejm projects from competition and consumer angles.

Additional information for the media

Press Office, UOKiK
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warsaw
Phone.: +48 22 827 28 92, +48 22 55 60 314, +48 22 55 60 430
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]

Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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