Mystery shopper to go shopping soon – recent amendment to Polish competition law

The Polish Sejm has now passed the Act of 5 August 2015 amending the Act on Competition and Consumer Protection and certain other acts (text: ISAP).

This amendment is principally aimed at enhancing protection of the collective interests of consumers, in particular on the financial services market, and changing the system existing to date of monitoring standard clauses in consumer agreements by making this a power of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

The new legislation will mean that there will be a whole range of new legal instruments that can be applied with respect to business undertakings, most of which will become new powers of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

The most significant of these instruments are:
a) legislation prohibiting the offering to consumers of financial services which are not suited to the needs of the consumers identified on the basis of the information available to an undertaking about the consumers’ characteristics, or offering services of that kind in a form that is inappropriate in light of the nature of those services,
b) the institution of interim decisions concerning  practices which are an infringement of collective interests of consumers,
c) a preventative procedure whereby the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection can approach and enter into dialogue with business undertakings,
d) the option of taking measures to purchase goods (the so-called ‘mystery shopper’),
e) the possibility of publication of announcements free of charge concerning conduct or tendencies which might present a material threat to the interests of consumers, and public warnings, and
f) the option of presenting a standpoint material to a case to courts regarding competition and consumer protection issues if this is believed to be in the public interest.

Some of the legislative solutions are modelled on instruments in place in the legal system in the UK which are applied to prevent misleading marketing practices on the financial markets. One of the financial market regulators in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has been provided with the relevant legal instruments.

The new provisions shall enter into force in April 2016.

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