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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Court rulings on competition and consumer protection cases in Poland - May-June 2016

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Court rulings on competition and consumer protection cases in Poland - May-June 2016

In May and June, Poland’s Court of Competition and Consumer Protection (SOKiK) and Court of Appeal (SA) ruled on 14 decisions and lawsuits UOKiK issued. The cases involved the financial industry and the construction of a sport facility.

The cases concerned decisions finding infringement of collective consumer interests, cases of limiting competition, and lawsuits UOKiK filed over the use of prohibited clauses. The courts fully upheld six of the Authority’s decisions, partially upheld another two, and completely overturned one. The courts ruled in favour of UOKiK in three of the lawsuits, and against it in one. Below is a summary of the most important rulings the courts issued in May and June.

COLLECTIVE CONSUMER INTERESTS PROTECTION

Getin Noble Bank

In December 2013, UOKiK issued a decision in which it stated that Getin Noble Bank misled customers with whom it had concluded unit-linked life insurance policies (UFK). The unfair practice consisted in Getin Noble providing insufficient information on the risks involved and the charges for breach of contract. UOKiK fined the bank 5.6 million PLN (ca. 1.26 mln EUR). It appealed the decision in the SOKiK, and in June 2016 the court ruled that Getin Noble’s practices were indeed illegal, but it reduced the penalty to 5 million PLN (ca. 1,13 mln EUR) on the grounds that UOKiK had not taken into account the bank’s voluntary compensation as a mitigating circumstance.

4Life Direct

In 2013 UOKiK found that 4Life Direct failed to state in materials advertising its insurance campaign „Moi bliscy” (“My loved ones”) essential information about the conditions governing their compensation policies. SOKiK dismissed the subsequent appeal, ruling that UOKiK’s factual findings and legal assessment were correct. It has also maintained the fine of 25 693 PLN (ca. 5,800 EUR).

Auxilia

In November 2013, UOKiK issued a decision stating the company Auxilia, which investigates compensation claims, misled consumers. It advertised its business claiming, that its compensation was 70 percent higher than the competition and that it won 97.7 percent of cases. In UOKiK’s view, those figures were calculated using unreliable data. Auxilia appealed the decision, but both courts upheld UOKiK’s decision. In May of 2016 the SA dismissed the company’s appeal on the grounds the claims were formulated on the basis of outdated, incomplete and selectively chosen data. It also maintained the original fine of more than 14,000 PLN (ca. 3,170 EUR)

Marka

In January 2013 UOKiK claimed that consumer lender Marka’s advertisements were misleading consumers by suggesting the company provided loans without conditions. They also provided untrue information about their initial payments. The court of first instance upheld the decision and overturned the appeal. This June, the Court of Appeal likewise backed the findings of both UOKiK and SOKiK, reasoning the model of the average consumer that had been used was correct. It maintained UOKiK’s original fine of 16 249 PLN (ca. 3,680 EUR).

Pszczółka Piechoccy

In May 2016 the SA ruled that consumer lender Pszczółka Piechoccy used abusive clauses. It also upheld an earlier SOKiK ruling and an UOKiK lawsuit. The contested provisions concerned the lack of proportionality of fees paid by the parties and the burdensome number of controls the company carried out (eight per month) when repayment was delayed. The court stated that consumer interests must be widely understood not only as economic, but also in terms of discomfort caused by circumstances including loss of time, infringement of privacy, and being misled. It also pointed out that the excessive frequency of controls could have caused consumers to feel harassed.

PROHIBITED CLAUSES

MiniCredit

UOKiK also found credit company MiniCredit to be using prohibited clauses. SOKiK ruled on the case in June 2016. The provisions challenged concerned debt collection fees, which the company did not determine for individual cases, based on costs it actually incurred, but on a constant rate that was the same for all consumers.

COMPETITION PROTECTION

Saltex Europa

In a June 2014 decision, UOKiK ruled that Polcourt, which is currently being liquidated due to bankruptcy, and Saltex Europa engaged in competition limiting practices. The companies agreed on the conditions of offers submitted in their bids for the building and modernisation of sport facilities. Saltex appealed the decision. In May 2016, SOKiK upheld UOKiK’s decision, ruling that the companies intended to influence the outcome of the bid rather than compete with one another. From the point of view of competition protection law, it does not matter that the ordering entity did not lose money as a result of the bid rigging. The court also upheld the 105.434,94 PLN fine (ca. 23,750 EUR) UOKiK initially imposed.

Roland Polska

The last of the rulings concerned a December 2011 UOKiK decision finding that music equipment distributor Roland Polska established with its distributors minimum prices for online sales of its products. The Office imposed a fine of 216,000 PLN (ca. 49,000 EUR). SOKiK upheld the decision, as did, in June of this year, the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the evidence incontrovertibly showed that Roland not only participated in an illegal agreement, but also initiated and guarded it. The fine UOKiK had imposed was justified, according to the court.

The appeal procedure

An enterprise may appeal an UOKiK decision to SOKiK, and a SOKiK ruling, in turn, to the Court of Appeal in Warsaw. A cassation appeal from a Court of Appeal judgment can be filed with the Supreme Court.

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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