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Consumer rights in online commerce

Nowadays, purchases made at a distance, mainly with the use of electronic communication (Internet), are becoming more and more popular. On the one hand, the ease and convenience of transactions and, on the other hand, statutory guarantees and protection of purchasers of goods, make the Polish society more and more willing to use this method.

The above issues are regulated by the relatively new Act on Consumer Rights, which provides that a distance contract is a contract concluded with a consumer under an organised system of concluding distance contracts, without the simultaneous physical presence of the parties, with the exclusive use of one or more means of distance communication and including the time of conclusion of the contract.

With a view to the safety of consumers involved in distance transactions, the legislator has laid down a number of requirements to be met by an online salesman. At the latest when the consumer expresses his wish to be bound by the distance contract, the entrepreneur is obliged to inform the consumer in a clear and comprehensible manner about:

  • the main characteristics of the service, taking into account its subject matter and the way in which it communicates with the consumer
  • their identification data, in particular about the company, the body which registered the business activity, as well as the number under which it was registered
  • the business address, e-mail address and, where available, telephone or fax numbers at which the consumer can contact the entrepreneur quickly and efficiently
  • the address at which the consumer may lodge a complaint, if different from the address above
  • the total price or remuneration for the supply including taxes and, where the nature of the subject-matter of the supply does not permit, in a reasonable assessment, for their calculation in advance, the manner in which they will be calculated and the charges for transport, delivery, postal services and other costs and, where those charges cannot be determined, the obligation to pay them; where a contract of indeterminate duration or a subscription contract is concluded, the entrepreneur is required to indicate the total price or remuneration covering all payments for the reference period and, where the contract provides for a fixed rate, also the total monthly payments.
  • the cost of using a means of distance communication for the purpose of concluding a contract, where they are higher than those normally used for the use of that means of communication
  • the cost of returning the goods in case of withdrawal from the contract borne by the consumer; for distance contracts, the cost of returning the goods if, due to their nature, they cannot normally be sent back by post
  • the obligation to reimburse the entrepreneur for justified costs related to withdrawal from the contract at the start of the service
  • exceptions where there is no right of withdrawal or where the consumer loses the right of withdrawal
  • the entrepreneur's obligation to deliver goods without defects
  • the existence and content of warranties and after-sales services and the manner in which they are provided
  • the code of good practice and how to familiarise oneself with it
  • the duration of the contract or the manner and reasons for its termination - if it is concluded for an indefinite period of time or if it is to be automatically extended
  • the minimum duration of the consumer's contractual obligations
  • the amount and manner of deposit or other financial guarantees which the consumer is obliged to fulfil at the request of the entrepreneur
  • the functionality of digital content and the technical means of protecting it
  • relevant interoperability of digital content with hardware and software of which the entrepreneur is or should be aware, such as information on the operating system, the required version and certain hardware features
  • the possibility of making use of out-of-court complaint and redress procedures and the rules of access to these procedures.
  • the method and date of payment
  • the method and time limit for the provision of services by the entrepreneur and the complaint handling procedure applied by the entrepreneur
  • the method and time limit for exercising the right of withdrawal, as well as the model withdrawal form

Where the transaction obliges the consumer to pay, the entrepreneur is required to provide the consumer, in a clear and visible manner, immediately before the consumer places his order, with information on the main characteristics of the product, the total price or remuneration including taxes, the duration of the contract or on the manner and reasons for terminating the contract and the minimum duration of the consumer's obligations. Moreover, where the relevant button is used to place an order, it must be marked so as to indicate clearly the obligation to pay for the product in question.

A consequence of failure to meet the above conditions is the possibility to consider the agreement as not concluded, while lack of information or information provided in a misleading manner may result in the imposition of a fine by the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) on the entrepreneur who does not respect consumer rights.

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