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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Over PLN 60 million fine for the owner of Biedronka stores

< previous | next > 27.04.2021

Over PLN 60 million fine for the owner of Biedronka stores
  • President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection Tomasz Chróstny imposed over PLN 60 million penalty on Jeronimo Martins Polska.
  • The owner of the Biedronka chain misled consumers about the country of origin of fruit and vegetables, which could have distorted their purchasing decisions.
  • Irregularities were observed in 27.8 per cent of Biedronka stores inspected by the Trade Inspection.

Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, initiated proceedings against Jeronimo Martins Polska in May 2020. It was caused by complaints about the incorrect indication of the country of origin of vegetables and fruit in many Biedronka stores and the results of inspections by the Trade Inspection confirming this.

"Reliable information about the products offered is a basic obligation of an entrepreneur and an inalienable right of the consumer. Meanwhile, in Biedronka stores, consumers wishing to buy Polish potatoes, tomatoes or apples were often misled. Our investigation showed that, in many cases, the information on the labels differed from that on the packaging or delivery notes. These violations were systemic and long-term. That is why I have imposed a penalty of over PLN 60 million on Jeronimo Martins Polska." – says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

During the investigation, the Office took into account the results of inspections conducted by the Trade Inspection in Q4 2019, Q1 and Q2 2020 as well as in February 2021. The inspectors compared the data on the in-store tags with that on the bulk or individual packaging and the delivery documents. They paid particular attention to fruits and vegetables that were marked as Polish. They were especially interested in the products that were most likely to be marked with a wrong country of origin because they grow both in Poland and in other countries, e.g. potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, apples, and strawberries. Inspectors checked a total of 263 Biedronka stores across the country. In 73 of them, that is 27.8 per cent of the inspected establishments, they found improper labeling of fruits and vegetables in terms of the country of origin. In these stores, in some cases, the scope of irregularities was as high as over 20 per cent of the inspected batches of products.

For example, the sign at the counter said "Poland" even though the garlic actually sold on 15 October 2019 at Biedronka in Łódz came from Spain, potatoes offered on 19 February 2020 in Radymno (Podkarpackie) – from France, savoy cabbage sold on 19 February 2020 in Kołobrzeg – from France, celery offered on 12 May 2020 at the discount store in Koszalin – from the Netherlands, pears available on 24 February 2021 at Biedronka in Katowice – from the Netherlands, and shallot onions that could be purchased on 24 February 2021 in a store in Bydgoszcz – from France.

"Consumers are increasingly paying attention to the country of origin of products. Many people are guided in their choices by economic patriotism as they want to support Polish manufacturers. For others, issues of food transportation are important, which can affect the amount of pesticides used to preserve the food or the carbon footprint left during transit, which is detrimental to the environment. Therefore, true and reliable information about the country of origin of fruits and vegetables is essential to making an informed purchasing decision. In Biedronka stores, consumers were often misled in this respect, which is an unfair market practice," – says Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

Research shows that consumer awareness is steadily increasing. In a survey conducted in 2020  by the PEMI Association, "Consumer Solidarity in the Era of Coronavirus", as many as 70 per cent of respondents indicated that they verify the country of origin before purchasing a product. Moreover, this study showed that it is not the price, as it used to be, that is the most important criterion influencing consumers' purchasing decisions, but information on the origin of a given product Meanwhile, the 2016 Ipsos "Moda na polskość" (Fashion for Polishness) survey shows that 73 per cent of Poles try to support the Polish economy by buying products produced in our country. In this case, the country of origin is the most important factor when choosing food products – as many as 76 per cent of respondents indicated that they would rather choose a Polish product than a foreign one.

The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed a penalty of over PLN 60 million (PLN 60,096,307) on Jeronimo Martins Polska for misleading consumers about the country of origin of fruit and vegetables sold in Biedronka stores. The decision is not final, the company can appeal to the court.

After inspections of country-of-origin labelling of fruits and vegetables conducted by the Trade Inspection in the first half of 2020, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection also initiated proceedings for the infringement of collective consumer interests against the Kaufland Polska Markety chain in August 2020. They are currently in progress. The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection called the franchised Delikatesy Centrum, Intermarche and Stokrotka chains to change their practices. Since 1 July 2020, controls of the commercial quality of food, including labelling of fruit and vegetables in terms of the country of origin, are carried out by the Agricultural and Food Quality Inspection, subordinate to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Consumer assistance:

Phone No. 801 440 220 or 22 290 89 16 – consumer hotline
E-mail: [SCODE]cG9yYWR5QGRsYWtvbnN1bWVudG93LnBs[ECODE]
Consumer Ombudsmen – in your town or county
Trade Inspection – in your voivodeship

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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