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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Abusive Contract Terms

In many areas of life consumers do not have the possibility to negotiate the terms of B2C contracts. They are given only two options: either to sign the contract or to reject it. This creates a threat that contracts may contain clauses detrimental to the consumer, known as abusive contract terms. That is why, the Civil Code provides that clauses which have not been negotiated individually are not binding for consumers if they shape their rights and obligations in a way that is contrary to good customs and grossly violates consumer’s interests. It should be stressed, however, that clauses setting forth the main obligations of the parties (e.g. the price or remuneration) are always valid, provided that they have been formulated clearly.

It is the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection which decides if a given provision is forbidden. An action for such a judgement may be brought to court by anyone who has been or may be offered a contract containing such a clause, consumer organisations, consumer ombudsmen and the President of the Office. In such cases, consumers may obtain assistance from the local consumer ombudsman or one of the state-funded consumer organisations.

The clauses which have been found abusive by a final decision of the Court are entered into the Register of Prohibited Clauses (available on the Office’s website) and as of this moment cannot be used in relations with consumers. The application of such clauses may be regarded as an infringement of collective consumer interests and may result in a fine of up to 10% of the trader’s revenue.

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection performs regular investigations into the standard contracts used in B2C transactions in many sectors – language courses, non-public schools, tourist services, insurance, banks, cable TV and gas suppliers. Consequently, various cases are filed to the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection by the President of the Office.

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