Consumer Ombudsman - when can you help?
The act regulating the work of the consumer ombudsman is the act on competition and consumer protection. Its primary task is to protect consumer rights. The consumer ombudsman is employed by the staroste or city president. Let's take a closer look at who can become one and who it can help.
What does a consumer ombudsman do?
A consumer ombudsman may be a person with a university degree, in particular in law or economics, and with at least five years of professional practice in the field of consumer protection.
The tasks of the consumer ombudsman include:
providing free consumer advice and legal information on the protection of consumer interests;
submitting motions regarding the enactment and amendment of local law regulations in the field of consumer interest protection;
applying to entrepreneurs in matters of protection of the rights and interests of consumers;
cooperation with the locally competent office delegations, bodies of the Trade Inspection and consumer organizations;
signaling problems related to consumer protection that require actions of higher level authorities, e.g. voivodships.
The entrepreneur is obliged to respond to the request addressed to him by the consumer ombudsman in matters of protection of the rights and interests of consumers. Failure to reply within the time limit set by the ombudsman may result in a penalty in the form of a fine of up to PLN 2,000.
The consumer ombudsman may also bring actions for the benefit of consumers and, with their consent, join the pending proceedings in cases concerning the protection of consumer interests.
By March 31 of each year, the ombudsman submits an annual report on his activities in the previous year to the starost or mayor of the city for approval, and submits it to the local delegation of the office.
Who can a consumer ombudsman help?
All consumers can report to the consumer ombudsman in matters relating to, for example,
advice on their rights,
bringing a lawsuit against the entrepreneur,
assistance in submitting a complaint about the goods,
problems with telecommunications and internet services.
A consumer who needs the help or advice of the ombudsman may contact him in person or seek advice by phone, letter or electronically.
However, the consumer ombudsman does not deal with cases in the field of:
personal data protection,
Will the consumer protection ombudsman also help entrepreneurs?
A consumer is a person who makes a purchase from an entrepreneur for purposes unrelated to his business activity, i.e. makes a purchase for private use. Therefore, if the entrepreneur does not buy a given item on a business basis (i.e. does not buy on invoice), then he is treated as a consumer and can use all consumer rights (e.g. withdrawal from a distance contract, complaints) - in such a situation, the entrepreneur may ask for help from the ombudsman, because here the entrepreneur acts as a consumer.
On the other hand, when the entrepreneur has purchased the goods on an invoice, i.e. for the company, then he already acts as an entrepreneur, which means that he cannot ask the consumer ombudsman for help.
For entrepreneurs who would like to avoid penalties in connection with failure to fulfill their obligations towards consumers, we recommend our section: Consumer Rights. You can also find articles about the rights of entrepreneurs in relations with consumers. Even though they are heavily protected by law, entrepreneurs also have rights.
Collective consumer interests
The collective interests of consumers are infringed when unfair practices applied by a given seller affect an unlimited number of consumers. In this case, each person who has made a transaction with a specific entrepreneur is exposed to the risk of violating his rights.
Examples of sellers' actions that violate consumer rights are, for example, organizing customer service in a way that prevents the submission of complaints about purchased goods or services or drawing up contracts containing prohibited clauses. The latter are individually unspecified provisions of the contract, which shape the rights and obligations of the consumer contrary to good practices and violate his interests - it may be, for example, a penalty for early withdrawal from the contract.
Notification of infringement of collective consumer interests may be submitted by anyone in the form of a written application to the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. Then, a decision is issued to initiate proceedings regarding the use of unlawful practices infringing the welfare of consumers, about which the parties are informed.
Proceedings on infringement of collective consumer interests should be completed no later than within two months, and in a particularly complex case - no later than within three months from the date of initiation of the proceedings.