Information obligation in the online store

Service Business

The Act on consumer rights significantly increased the information obligation of the entrepreneur towards the consumer. The legislator assumes that in order for the consumer to be able to make a free, well-thought-out decision, free from pressure from the contractor, he should have an appropriate package of information. The Act introduces a separate list of data that must be provided to the consumer before concluding the contract in the case of contracts concluded in a brick-and-mortar store, as well as distance and off-premises contracts. Due to the risks associated with ordering goods or services via the Internet, the regulation on this matter seems to be the most extensive in the act. It is closely related to the increase in the number of e-commerce transactions in the last few years, which results in an increase in the catalog of parties' obligations - including the information obligation.

Information obligation in the online store - the method of presenting information

The trader's obligation to inform is that the information provided to the consumer by the trader must be clear and understandable to him. What does it mean? The information should be understandable for the average consumer, presented in an accessible way (e.g. in an appropriate font, with bolding of the most important issues). Imprecise phrases that can be interpreted by the consumer in several ways should be avoided. It is also unacceptable to provide misleading information.

The consumer should receive relevant information from the entrepreneur at the latest when he expresses his will to be bound by the contract. Therefore, it should take place when the customer in the online store, after selecting a specific product, presses the "I'm placing an order" button or another equivalent button.

Information obligation, i.e. what does the entrepreneur have to inform about?

In art. 12 of the Consumer Act, there is a catalog of over 20 pieces of information that the entrepreneur should provide to the consumer when concluding a contract via the Internet. The information obligation includes:

  • the main features of the service, taking into account the subject of the service and the method of communication with the consumer;

  • identification data, in particular the company (usually the name and surname of a natural person, name of a legal person), the body that registered the business, as well as the number under which it was registered (NIP, KRS);

  • the address of the enterprise (the address of the actual business activity, may be different from the address of the entrepreneur himself, e.g. the address of the company's registered office is different from the premises where online transactions are made), e-mail address and telephone or fax numbers at which the consumer can quickly and communicate effectively with the entrepreneur;

  • the address at which the consumer may submit complaints, if different from the address indicated above;

  • the total price or remuneration for the service, including taxes, as well as fees for transport, delivery, postal services and other costs, and if the amount of these fees cannot be determined - about the obligation to pay them; in the event of concluding a contract for an indefinite period or a contract including subscription, the entrepreneur is obliged to provide the total price or remuneration including all payments for the settlement period, and if the contract provides for a fixed rate - also total monthly payments;

  • costs of using a means of distance communication to conclude a contract, in case they are higher than usual for the use of this means of communication;

  • method and date of payment;

  • the manner and date of performance by the entrepreneur and the complaint procedure used by him;

  • the manner and date of exercising the right to withdraw from the contract, as well as the model withdrawal form included in the annex to the Act on consumer rights;

  • costs of returning items in the event of withdrawal from the contract, which are borne by the consumer; in relation to distance contracts - costs of returning items, if, due to their nature, these items cannot be returned by regular mail;

  • obligation to reimburse reasonable costs related to withdrawal from the contract at the commencement of service provision;

  • cases where the consumer is deprived of the right to withdraw from the contract;

  • the entrepreneur's obligation to deliver goods without defects;

  • the existence and content of the guarantee (voluntary declaration of the entrepreneur) and after-sales services and the manner of their implementation;

  • the code of good practice and how to read it;

  • the duration of the contract or the method and conditions for terminating the contract - if the contract is concluded for an indefinite period or if it is to be automatically extended;

  • the minimum duration of the consumer's obligations under the contract;

  • the amount and method of deposit or other financial guarantees that the consumer is obliged to fulfill at the entrepreneur's request;

  • functionality of digital content and technical measures to protect it;

  • significant interoperability of digital content with computer hardware and software that the entrepreneur knows or should know about;

  • the possibility of using extrajudicial means of dealing with complaints and redress as well as the rules of access to these procedures.

Information obligation in the online store - consequences

The scope of information falling under the information obligation is minimal and the entrepreneur may extend the amount of data provided to the consumer. These messages are an integral part of the distance contract and may only be changed with the express agreement of the parties. In practice, this means that the trader will have to obtain the consumer's consent to change any of the information presented above, which may often lead to absurd situations, e.g. in the case of a change of the company's address for reasons beyond his control.

The entrepreneur is obliged to record this information and provide it to the consumer on paper or, if the consumer agrees, on another durable medium (Article 14 of the Act on consumer rights). Not only discs, flash drives, portable drives, but also electronic mail are considered a durable medium. The consent to use a durable data medium other than paper cannot be presumed. The burden of proof of compliance with the disclosure obligations rests on the entrepreneur.

Information obligation in the online store - limitation

The legislator provided for the possibility of limiting the catalog of information obligations that the entrepreneur must provide to the consumer in the event of significant technical limitations related to the type of equipment used for remote communication, e.g. smartphone, tablet, etc. The entrepreneur must then inform about:

  • the main features of the entrepreneur's performance,

  • designation of the entrepreneur,

  • total price or remuneration,

  • the right to withdraw from the contract,

  • the duration of the contract, and if the contract was concluded for an indefinite period - the manner and conditions for its termination.

These restrictions do not exempt the professional from the necessity to provide the consumer with the remaining information mentioned above, which must be provided in a manner appropriate to the type of means of distance communication used, e.g. by referring to a website.

Information obligation in the e-shop - summary

The Polish legislator's desire to provide the consumer with comprehensive information at the pre-contractual stage has led to an information flood of consumers, which is as disquieting as the lack of information. It is difficult for the average consumer to separate important information from less important information with this amount of data. In addition, the overabundance of information will mean that most consumers will simply not read it. The entrepreneur is forced to meet the requirements provided for in the Act, because in the event of failure to comply, he will be burdened with serious consequences - specified in the Act on Consumer Rights and other regulations (the Code of Offenses, the Act on Counteracting Unfair Market Practices, the Civil Code, the Act on Competition and Consumer Protection).