Currently, work is ongoing on amendments to the Polish Act on Competition and Consumer Protection that will give the President of the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection (“President of the OCCP”) new powers in consumer affairs. The changes are intended to allow for a more effective enforcement of consumer protection regulations, especially in view of the present era of digitalisation of the economy.
The draft amendment is related to the transposition of EU Regulation 2017/2394 (the so-called CPC Regulation) on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. The Regulation determines, among other things, the competences which should be given to such national bodies by the Member States so that they can carry out their tasks effectively.
The most important changes proposed in the amendment include the following:
Introduction of searches (dawn raids) in consumer matters - until now, searches (dawn raids) could only be carried out by the President of the OCCP if there was a suspicion of anti-competitive practices (in consumer cases checks were allowed). Under the draft, searches are also to be admissible in cases where there is a suspicion of practices infringing the collective interests of consumers or with the use of abusive clauses in consumer contracts.
Enabling the blocking of websites - even before a decision is issued in a given case, if it is substantiated that a given company’s practice violates consumer rights, and further employment of the practice may cause serious threats to consumers, the President of the OCCP will be entitled to order a given entity to: (i) place a warning for consumers accessing the website; (ii) remove the content, restrict access or disable the entire website; (iii) delete the Internet domain (such deleted domains are then to be entered into a special register). Telecommunication companies are to be obliged to prevent access to websites using domain names entered in the said register and redirect the connections referring to such domains.
Extension of “mystery shopping” powers - the planned changes are to allow OCCP officials to inspect the entire purchasing process, by pretending that they are a company’s customer. Until now, it has only been possible for officials to undertake actions aimed at a purchase, without being able to finalise the transaction. After the changes have been introduced, officials - using a hidden or assumed identity - will be able to verify the entire contracting process (including purchasing the product/service), and to use sound and image recording devices, without informing the inspected entity of such recording.
List of consumer organisations authorised to send “external alerts” - the President of the OCCP will keep a list of consumer organisations which are authorised to send “alerts” to the President of the OCCP and the European Commission about suspected infringements covered by the CPC Regulation. The President of the OCCP will not be obliged to initiate proceedings in response to the above alerts. However, a signal from a specialised consumer organisation may in many cases contribute to formal proceedings being opened.
The draft amendment has now been submitted for inter-ministerial consultations. The new regulations are to enter into force 14 days from the date they are announced (except for the regulations concerning the register of deleted Internet domains, which will enter into force 3 months after the announcement).
We will be monitoring the further course of the legislative process and provide further information on progress on this.