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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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UOKiK activities in 2019

< previous | next > 18.01.2021

UOKiK activities in 2019
  • Over 950 decisions concerning protection of competition and consumers, nearly PLN 425 million in fines imposed, more than 800 reasoned opinions issued in court cases.
  • These are just some examples of the UOKIK activities in 2019.
  • To learn more about them, please refer to the Report on the Office's activities.

In 2019, we issued over 950 decisions, we imposed the first fine for the abuse of contractual advantage and the highest ever fines for violation of collective interests of consumers and application of prohibited clauses. However, it is not the numbers that are of primary importance in our business, but helping consumers, ensuring a level playing field for market participants and fair competition. The powers of the President of UOKiK are much broader than our name implies - we also monitor the market supervision system to ensure that Polish consumers buy safe products and fill up with good quality fuel. As of July 2019, the Trade Inspection Authority has also been controlling the quality of solid fuels such as coal – says President of UOKiK Tomasz Chróstny.

COMPETITION PROTECTION

Competition-restricting practices

In 2019, the President of UOKiK initiated 56 explanatory proceedings and 14 anti-monopoly proceedings, including 13 proceedings on illicit agreements and 1 on abuse of dominant market position. Furthermore, the office issued 82 soft notices to businesses. They consist of requesting that unfair practices be changed or eliminated.

In 2019, UOKiK issued 12 decisions on anti-competitive practices, of which 11 concerned prohibited horizontal agreements and one concerned a vertical agreement. The total financial fines for competition-restricting practices amounted to PLN 5.2 million. In two cases, sanctions were reduced due to leniency scheme. Under the programme, the participant of an illicit agreement is treated in a less restrictive manner if they supply crucial evidence and cooperate with the Office. In 2019, entrepreneurs submitted seven applications for inclusion in the scheme.

Since April 2017, the UOKiK's "Whistleblower" programme has been in place, under which the Office receives anonymous signals about potential breaches of competition-related regulations. Initially, whistleblowers could contact the Office by email or by calling a hotline. As of December 2019, notifications can be made through a special on-line platform that ensures complete anonymity, available at: https://report.whistleb.com/pl/uokik. In 2019, UOKiK received 1531 notifications from anonymous whistleblowers, including 57 via the new platform. Some of them were used during 8 searches that the office conducted at the premises of 23 entrepreneurs. The search is a tool used in situations where it is suspected that the given entity is in possession of evidence of competition-restricting practices. It is conducted upon court authorisation only and, as a rule, is performed with the assistance of Police officers.

Control of concentration

Competition protection means also control of concentrations. In 2019, the Office instituted 298 investigations to examine whether mergers and acquisitions would adversely affect business competition. In 2019, 261 transaction approvals and 5 conditional approvals were granted. The vast majority of proceedings (over 96 percent) were completed in the first phase. Concentrations most often concerned the real estate industry (38), financial services (23) and trade (21).

Contractual advantage

2019 saw further UOKiK actions regarding the unfair use of contractual advantage in the trade in agricultural and food products. The President of the Office issued 5 decisions, including the first decision imposing a fine on an entrepreneur. It concerned T.B. Fruit Polska, and the fine for failing to meet agreed payment deadlines amounted to PLN 8.3 million. This accounted for 3 percent of the company's turnover from the previous year, the highest fine for unfair use of a contractual advantage. 19 explanatory proceedings and one proper proceedings were initiated, concerning practices involving the abuse of superior bargaining power. Moreover, it issued 40 soft notices to businesses requesting them to provide clarifications or to discontinue the abuse of superior bargaining power against farmers.

State aid

State aid results in the state's interference with free market mechanisms. Hence, its use is restricted. UOKiK performs a preliminary assessment of individual support and aid schemes, evaluating their compliance with EU legislation, and monitors state aid. In 2019, the Office provided opinions on 19 state aid projects and government projects and notified the European Commission on 19 projects providing for state aid to be granted to entrepreneurs. The President of UOKiK received 502 requests for interpretation and 499 draft government documents for analysis.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Protection of collective consumer interests and abusive contractual clauses

A critical area of the UOKiK's activities in 2019 was the protection of vulnerable populations, including seniors. The President of the Office issued decisions on crooked sales demonstrations with highest-ever financial fines: fine for Exito company from Opalenica amounted to nearly PLN 4 million, while for VGET POLSKA over PLN 2.7 million.

The constantly recurring issue in decisions issued by the President were abusive contractual clauses concerning the method used by banks to determine exchange rates in model agreements for foreign currency mortgage loans. The judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (case C-260/18 Dziubak) of October 2019 proved to be extremely relevant to consumer protection and case law practice of the President of UOKiK. This judgement applies to each agreement containing abusive clauses, which is why it may be of key importance to borrowers when seeking claims against banks before common courts.

The President of UOKiK initiated 47 proceedings related to practices that violate collective consumer interests, 25 on declaring the provisions of a model contract to be unlawful, and 87 explanatory proceedings. The President of UOKiK issued 69 decisions regarding practices that violate collective consumer interests and 17 in cases concerning the recognition of model contractual clauses as abusive. Furthermore, a business' commitment to change the practice was approved in 18 cases. Financial fines amounted in total to nearly PLN 240 million. We undertook numerous soft measures: as many as 546 requests were made to businesses to change their practices. In addition, 809 times a reasoned opinion was issued regarding people fighting for their rights in court.

Product safety

Consumer protection-related activities pertain to product safety as well. In 2019, the President of the Office initiated 56 proceedings in this regard and issued 45 decisions, with fines being imposed on entrepreneurs 14 times. The majority of companies removed hazards or eliminated hazardous products from the market during the investigation.

UOKiK also monitors the non-food product inspection system for their compliance with the EU requirements. In 2019, 264 administrative proceedings were initiated and 252 decisions were issued.

Trade Inspection Authority

The President of UOKiK strives to ensure product safety in Poland also by supervising the Trade Inspection Authority. The Office plans, coordinates and monitors the inspections carried out by Trade Inspection Authority Provincial Inspectorates (WIIH) and analyses their results. In 2019, the Trade Inspection Authority performed 30 nationwide inspections - 19 regarding food products and 11 regarding non-food products. It tested, inter alia, cakes and pastry products, country-of-origin labelling of fruits and vegetables, toys, and energy labels.

Fuel quality

UOKiK is also responsible for managing the Fuel Quality Monitoring System. The results of the inspections carried out by the Trade Inspection Authority in 2019 showed that the quality of liquid fuels was more often challenged than LPG, at the same time, inspection outcomes were slightly better than in 2018. As for gasoline and diesel, only 1.37 percent of samples failed to meet quality requirements, while for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) the figure was 0.6 percent.

LEGISLATION

Being a governmental authority, UOKiK is also involved in creating effective legal regulations. In 2019, we analysed a total of 1255 draft legal acts and positions to draft acts of the Sejm, with a view to issuing an opinion on the potential impact on competition and the situation of consumers.

The report on the activities of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection in 2019 is available at UOKiK's website.

Consumer support:

Phone: 801 440 220 or +48 22 290 89 16 – consumer helpline
Email: [SCODE]cG9yYWR5QGRsYWtvbnN1bWVudG93LnBs[ECODE]
Consumer ombudsmen – in your town or district

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland
Phone +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 246
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

Attached files

 

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