The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection is an antitrust institution next to which one cannot pass by indifferently. Its functioning on the Polish market is motivated by many reasons, consumer protection issues being one of them. Polish consumer protection proceedings are discussed by Paweł Dyrduł, associate lawyer from KG Legal Kiełtyka Gładkowski Professional Partnership based in Cracow.
The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (Antitrust Office)
The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection was established in Poland in 1990. Initially, it was functioning in the Polish market as an Antitrust Office. The aim of the Office was to undertake actions focused on counteracting antitrust agreements and the abuse of dominant position in the market, as well as to control monopoly of entrepreneurs. The current name – Office of Competition and Consumer Protection – was granted in 1996. The competence of the Office for the protection of consumer interests was expanded. The activity of the Antitrust Office in the Polish market is considered essential and the institution itself is seen as credible and independent. The organization of the Office was regulated by the Act of 16 February 2017 on competition and consumer protection. The most important body of the Office is the President of the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection.
Explanatory proceedings in the Polish Antitrust Office
Explanatory proceedings may be initiated by the President of the Office ex officio. This is undertaken by way of a decision after the fulfilment of the conditions set out in the Act, namely in the situation when the facts indicate the possibility of violating the provisions of the Act.
It is intended primarily to firstly determine whether there has been a breach of the provisions of the law, which may form the basis for initiating other proceedings. In addition, explanatory proceedings may aim at market research (defining its structure and degree of concentration). The duration of explanatory proceedings is up to 4 months from the date of their initiation. However, if the case is particularly complicated, the proceedings may take up to 5 months. The completion of the proceedings takes place in the form of a decision.
Proceedings in cases when the provisions of contract templates are deemed illegal
Proceedings in cases in which the provisions of contract templates are deemed prohibited are being initiated ex officio. These proceedings may be initiated by the enumerated group of entities listed in the legal act, including the consumer, consumer ombudsman, financial Ombudsman, consumer organization or foreign organization that has the right, under the EU law, to initiate such proceedings. The notice filed by the Office must meet certain formal requirements, such as the indication of the trader who is being charged with the use of unlawful contract terms, the description of the facts, the indication of a standard contract, which, according to the notifier, is unlawful, as well as the notifier’s data. After analysing the notifications, the President of the OCCP issues a decision to initiate the proceedings. However, this procedure cannot be initiated if three years have elapsed since the end of the year in which the contractual template with allegedly illegal provisions ceased to apply. The duration of this procedure is a maximum of four months, however, if the case is particularly complicated, the time limit may be extended by one month.
Proceedings in cases of practices violating the collective interests of consumers
Proceedings in cases of practices violating the collective interests of consumers are initiated ex officio. Everyone is eligible to notify the President of the alleged use of practices violating the collective consumer interests. If, in the course of the proceedings, it is probable that the trader’s continued use of the alleged practice may cause serious threats to the collective interests of consumers, the President of the OCCP is obliged to issue a decision requiring the trader to cease certain activities for the duration of the decision. The proceedings cannot be initiated if one year has elapsed since the end of the year in which certain practice ceased to be used. The proceedings should be completed within four months (five months if the case is complicated).
Abstract: Polish economic Law, Polish consumer protection, Polish antitrust law
The article was prepared by KG LEGAL KIEŁTYKA GŁADKOWSKI based in Cracow, Poland, specialising in cross border cases, with its focus on investments in Poland, new technologies, IT and life science. It discusses consumer protection proceedings of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (Antitrust Office) in Poland.
Paweł Dyrduł, lawyer (specializing in banking law, financial law) from KG LEGAL KIEŁTYKA GŁADKOWSKI – PROFESSIONAL PARTNERSHIP based in Cracow, specializing in cross border issues and servicing life science and IT companies, discusses consumer protection proceedings conducted by the Polish President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection Antitrust Office).