Poland's parliament strengthens consumer protection law

Poland’s lower house of parliament today passed an amendment to the competition and consumer protection act, which makes it easier to eliminate miss-selling of financial products and other consumer abuses.

The new regulations define as illegal the offering of financial products which are not suited to consumer needs and give the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) new tools to detect and challenge consumer abuses. It also allows UOKiK to issue administrative decisions regarding abusive clauses in consumer contracts. Such decisions will be subject to a court review. 

The most important changes to the act include the following.

  • It will be forbidden to offer consumers financial services that do not correspond to their needs or in a way inappropriate to their design. The aim of this measure is to impel entrepreneurs to analyse whether a service actually meets the needs of consumers.
  • Temporary decisions – practices where the risk of significant consumer losses due to miss-selling or abusive clauses in contracts can be suspended before the end of proceedings. Temporary decisions will be binding only until the final decision terminating the case is issued, and enterprises will be able to appeal them. The Court of Competition and Consumer Protection (SOKiK) will have two months to consider the appeal.
  • The introduction of “mystery shopping” with court permission - UOKiK investigators will be able to pose as consumers to gather evidence. The “mystery shopper” will be used to verify how a product or service is offered, and how a contract is concluded, not to provoke. “Mystery shopping” will require the permission of the court in ongoing investigations.
  • UOKiK gains the ability to express an opinion in private consumer abuse cases before the general court. Particularly when a case is significant from a public interest point of view, UOKiK will be able to share its knowledge with the court, enabling it to conduct a comprehensive examination of the case.
  • The ability to publish free communications and warnings on public radio and television, making it possible to quickly and effectively warn consumers about behaviours or practices that seriously threaten their interests.
  • A new model for controlling the provisions of standard contracts – the President of UOKiK will issue administrative decisions determining the legality of the provisions of standard contracts, and ban the further use of those found to be prohibited.
    • Proceedings will be initiated on the Authority’s motion or the intiative of consumers, consumer ombudsmen, the Financial Services Ombudsman or consumer organisations. 
    • Enterprises will be able to appeal decisions finding the use of prohibited clauses to SOKiK.
    • Incidental control, or the consumer’s right to seek justice, with regard to the use of clauses will continue to be heard in civil courts.