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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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The Court of Justice of the EU will deal with a freedom of concluding distance contracts

< previous | next > 19.05.2018

The Court of Justice of the EU will deal with a freedom of concluding distance contracts
  • Is the requirement to sign a contract in the presence of a courier, without a possibility to freely review its content, consistent with the law?
  • The Supreme Court asked the Court of Justice of the EU such a question, while considering a cassation in the case of dispute between UOKiK and Orange.
  • The decision will be important for the entire telecommunications market and may impact the method of delivering contracts.

The case concerns the UOKiK’s decision of 2010 to impose a fine on Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa Centertel (today: Orange). The company was to pay almost PLN 9.3 m. The reason? The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) questioned the distance selling model in which a consumer had to sign the contract in the presence of a courier. They had no conditions or time to read the documents carefully in such situation. The undertaking did not allow to leave the contract to enable the consumer to review its contents comfortably. This could have prevented them from making a rational decision regarding long-term commitments.

UOKiK concluded the company applied an aggressive commercial practice. In its opinion, the company used its advantage and exerted an unacceptable influence on consumers. As a result, during a short visit of a courier, consumers might sign a contract with Centertel, which they would not have done if they had time to read the documents. However, according to the regulations, consumer must have a chance to review the contract template before signing it. This is guaranteed by the Civil Code and the Telecommunications Law.

The regional and appeal courts did not agree with the UOKiK’s assessment. They concluded that while ordering a courier, the consumer had already chosen the product, and that earlier they could find a contract on the company's website or ask a consultant to read it on the phone.

The Supreme Court (Ref. No. III SK 45/16), while considering the cassation appeal of UOKiK, had doubts as to how the provisions of the Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices Directive should be interpreted in this case. It provides a definition of aggressive commercial practices. According to it, they may take place when, for example, due to undue influence, the average consumer has limited freedom of choice, which may result in him making a wrong decision. In turn, an undue influence means using the advantage against the consumer to exert a pressure on them. The Supreme Court asked the Court of Justice of the EU to clarify whether the distance selling model, in which the customer must make a final decision in the presence of a courier, without a possibility to review the contract freely, can be considered an aggressive commercial practice.

The CJEU (Ref. No. C-628/17) will give an answer in a few months at the earliest. The case is precedential. Its resolution may lead to a change in the method of delivering contracts in the distance selling model for services.  

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa
Tel. 695 902 088
Email: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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