Complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests - template with overview

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Proceedings concerning practices violating collective consumer interests are initiated ex officio by the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. The consumer may simultaneously submit a notification regarding the suspected use of prohibited practices by the entrepreneur. That is, he may file a complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests.

Violation of collective consumer interests

Pursuant to Art. 24 of the Act on competition and consumer protection, a practice that violates collective consumer interests is understood as an illegal activity of an entrepreneur that infringes them. In order to be able to conclude that the entrepreneur has violated the collective interest of consumers, two elements are important: the unlawfulness of the entrepreneur's behavior (actions or omissions) and the collective interest of consumers as a good that is infringed upon by the illegal activity of the entrepreneur.

Pursuant to Art. 24 (3) of u.o.k.i.k. it is not the collective interest of consumers as to the sum of their individual interests. Thus, the number of individual consumers whose interests have been infringed does not determine whether a practice infringes the collective interests of consumers. This term should be viewed in abstract terms. It can therefore be concluded that if the trader's practice may affect every consumer in similar circumstances, there is a breach of collective interests.

Violation of collective consumer interests - unlawful practices

Unlawful practices of the entrepreneur that violate collective consumer interests may include, for example:

  1. use of the provisions of standard contracts that have been entered into the register of provisions of standard contracts considered illegal - this is not only about contractual provisions that have been found abusive by the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection, but also clauses that are similar in content and have such sense itself, having a similar effect on the consumer;
  2. breach of the obligation to provide consumers with reliable, truthful and complete information - the Act on consumer rights contains a number of pre-contractual information obligations, failure to comply with any of them, e.g. lack of information on the complaint handling procedure, may result in recognizing such a practice as unlawful;
  3. unfair market practices or acts of unfair competition:

A catalog of examples of unfair market practices can be found in Art. 7 of the Act on Counteracting Unfair Market Practices, e.g. in point 7, an unfair market practice is the claim that a product will be available only for a very limited time or that it will be available under certain conditions for a very limited time, if it is false, in order to persuade the consumer to take an immediate decision regarding the contract and deprive him of the possibility of an informed product choice.

Example 1.
We decide to buy the product in the online store, because only during the next two days the entrepreneur guarantees free delivery, then we visit the store's website after this date and the delivery is still free.

Both the general definition and an exemplary list of acts of unfair competition can be found in the Act on Combating Unfair Competition. Pursuant to Art. 3 of this act:

 

An act of unfair competition is an act that is against the law or decency, if it threatens or violates the interest of another entrepreneur or customer.

 

The following can be considered acts of unfair competition: misleading designation of a company, false or fraudulent designation of the geographical origin of goods or services, misleading designation of goods or services, breach of trade secrets, imitation of products.

Example 2.
The entrepreneur uses a name and logo that confusingly resembles a well-known brand, the consumer, being convinced of the choice of a well-known brand, chooses the services of the entrepreneur who misled us as to his identity.

Prohibited practices may therefore concern: contract templates, regulations for shopping in e-stores, regulations for the provision of on-line services, privacy policy, advertising campaigns or the content of the complaint form or a detailed description of the product.

Violation of the collective interests of consumers - what is the threat for entrepreneurs?

If the President of UOKiK notices that the entrepreneur, for example, does not provide the required information about the product on the website, he may issue an appropriate administrative decision recognizing the practice as violating collective consumer interests. In the decision, the President of the Office may specify measures to remove the ongoing effects of infringement of collective consumer interests in order to ensure the execution of the order, in particular, oblige the entrepreneur to submit a single or multiple statement with the content and in the form specified in the decision. It may also order publication of the decision in whole or in part at the entrepreneur's expense.

Proceedings for infringement of collective consumer interests are not initiated if one year has passed since the end of the year in which the suspicious practices were discontinued. If the trader has ceased to use an unlawful practice, a decision is issued declaring the practice infringing the collective interests of consumers and stating that it was abandoned. When determining that a given entrepreneur has committed a practice that violates collective consumer interests, the President of UOKiK may also impose a fine of up to 10% of the revenue earned in the accounting year preceding the year in which the fine was imposed.

How to write a complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests?

Pursuant to Art. 100 of the Act on competition and consumer protection, a written complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests may be submitted by anyone who suspects that practices infringing collective consumer interests are being used. The person submitting the complaint will not be a party to the proceedings, it will only be an entrepreneur using illegal practice.

A complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests should include:

  1. designation of the entrepreneur who is accused of applying practices that violate collective consumer interests,
  2. identification of the notifier of the notification,
  3. an indication of the entrepreneur's behavior we are complaining about,
  4. provisions of the act that are infringed by the entrepreneur,
  5. making the violation of the provisions of the act plausible,
  6. the signature of the declarant.

Complaints about infringement of collective consumer interests shall be accompanied by all documents that may constitute evidence of infringement of the provisions of the Act.

Complaints about infringement of collective consumer interests - where to report?

A complaint about infringement of collective consumer interests may be brought:

  • in person by submitting a letter to the seat of the Office in Warsaw at pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1 or at UOKiK's branches,
  • by post to the address of the office,
  • by fax,
  • verbally for the record at the headquarters at pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1 in Warsaw or at UOKiK's branches,
  • via the ePUAP electronic inbox.

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