Consumer law clearly defines the rights and obligations of both the seller and consumer. Your relationship with consumers should be characterised by integrity, honesty and professional diligence. It may happen that the consumer's expectations will, in your opinion, be too high or that he will interpret his rights incorrectly. Remember that such a dispute does not always have to end in court. Out-of-court methods such as arbitration and mediation are usually faster, cheaper and simpler for consumers and entrepreneurs than going to court. Another form of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) are complaint boards created jointly or independently by business associations, economic institutions or consumer organisations.
The use of out-of-court dispute resolution mechanisms is also beneficial for entrepreneurs because it allows for better management of customer relations and maintaining good business reputation.
- remember that a dispute may be referred to an amicable settlement only after the complaint process is over.
- the settlement of a dispute through mediation and arbitration requires the consent of both parties, i.e. the seller and the consumer
- a request for mediation or arbitration shall be submitted to the competent institution before which proceedings will be conducted
- in some institutions dealing with the amicable settlement of disputes, applications may be submitted only by the consumer (provided that the entrepreneur agrees to this form of dispute resolution).
See information from the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection
Information about out-of-court redress can be found on the website polubowne.uokik.gov.pl The website also includes a search engine of entities that will help you resolve your dispute.
Intermediate bodies for consumer disputes
Voivodeship Trade Inspectorates
Permanent Consumer Arbitration Courts (SPSK) operate at the Voivodeship Inspectorates of the Trade Inspection. Mediation can also be carried out through them. They deal with disputes related to the purchased goods or services (e.g. purchase of footwear, household appliances, as well as the provision of renovation and construction services). The matter can be brought to the SPSK by the consumer, entrepreneur, consumer organisation and district/city consumer spokesman. In order to commence proceedings, an appropriate application (a request for mediation or an application for consideration of a case before an amicable consumer court / a request for enrolment at an amicable court) must be submitted to the regionally competent Voivodeship Inspectorate of the Trade Inspection. The list of inspectorates together with contact details is available on the website of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.
Settlements and judgments issued by the Permanent Arbitration Court of Consumers have the force of a judgment of a common court. In the case of formal reservations, a complaint may be filed with the common court.
Mediation and the Court of Arbitration at the President of the Office of Electronic Communications
This centre examines disputes related to mobile and fixed telephony services, Internet access and postal services. The proceedings commence upon an application submitted to the Delegation of UKE. Mediation is possible only if it is requested by a consumer who has signed an agreement with the operator, uses a telephone for purposes not directly related to business activity or profession. These two conditions do not apply if the mediation proceedings concern postal services.
Replaced the institution of the Insurance Advocate which operated until 2015. He deals with disputes arising between consumers and insurance companies, general pension societies, financial institutions. He represents the interests of clients of financial market entities (e.g. clients of banks, insurance companies, payment institutions). The Polish Financial Advocate does not undertake any actions in the scope of complaints concerning, among others, commercial law companies, foundations, associations, public administration bodies and offices serving them, local government units, cooperatives, state enterprises.
Arbitration court at the Polish Financial Supervision Authority
The Arbitration Court at the Polish Financial Supervision Authority resolves disputes between financial market participants, in particular between financial institutions supervised by the Polish Financial Supervision Authority and recipients of services provided by them. The Arbitration Court considers cases whose value, as a rule, exceeds PLN 500 as well as non-financial rights. Mediation proceedings as well as arbitration may be conducted. The verdict of the Court of Arbitration at the Polish Financial Supervision Authority and the settlement before it have the same legal force as the verdict of the common court, after approval by a common court of competent local and material nature. The verdict is not subject to appeal.
Banking Consumer Arbitration at the Polish Bank Association
It deals with resolving disputes between consumers (bank customers) and banks with respect to monetary claims for non-performance or improper performance by the bank of banking activities or other activities for the benefit of the consumer, the value of which does not exceed PLN 8,000 (this applies to the value of the dispute and not the agreement). The arbitrator's decisions for the bank are final - the arbitrator cannot appeal against the decision. If the consumer loses, on the other hand, he has the right to refer the case to a common court.
Union of Associations Advertising Council
The Complaints Committee of the Advertising Council investigates disputes if a consumer considers that advertising is misleading or in breach of the Code of Ethics in Advertising. Entrepreneurs may submit complaints using a form. The Commission does not examine complaints concerning advertisements that were not distributed in Poland and those whose advertiser does not have its registered office in Poland.
Online dispute resolution. ODR platform
The ODR platform is an interactive website providing a single point of access for consumers and entrepreneurs who wish to resolve a dispute out of court (ODR - Online Dispute Resolution).
- how the ODR platform works
You can complain about goods or services purchased online, both at home and abroad. This is done by filling in an electronic form and finding the right entity to resolve the dispute.
Entrepreneurs established in the European Union and concluding contracts with consumers via the internet and online intermediaries are required to include a link to the ODR platform on their websites and to provide their e-mail address as the first point of contact. The entrepreneur must inform about the ODR platform, even if he does not submit to the amicable settlement of disputes.
Changes in the rules for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes
In 2017, new rules on out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes entered into force. They implement the EU directive, which aims to create a uniform system in the European Union to provide consumers with the possibility of out-of-court settlement of disputes with entrepreneurs.
The provisions of the Act apply to the resolution of disputes (concerning obligations arising from sales contracts and service contracts) between a consumer residing in the territory of an EU member state and an entrepreneur having its registered office in the territory of the Republic of Poland. Disputes will be settled by the so-called ADR entities (alternative dispute resolution). In Poland, the ADR system model will be based to a large extent on the current solution, in which both public and non-public ADR entities exist side by side, i.e.
- Commercial Inspection structure. Disputes are settled by the Voivodeship Inspectorates of the Commercial Inspection (mediation) and Permanent Consumer Arbitration Courts (arbitration). These entities deal with general and multi-sectoral dispute resolution and cover the whole country.
- ADR entities of a sectoral nature located "next to" or within the "structure" of public bodies (sectoral administration bodies, such as the President of UKE, the President of URE, the President of UTK, the Financial Supervision Commission, the Financial Advocate)
- non-public ADR entities established (existing or newly created) by entrepreneurs in a given sector
Initiation of proceedings
Participation in the settlement of a dispute under ADR is voluntary and must be agreed to by both parties - both the entrepreneur and the consumer. As a rule, the procedure is initiated at the consumer's request (if the regulations of the ADR entity so provide, also at the request of the entrepreneur). The procedure is free of charge for consumers or available for a small fee.
An application for the initiation of proceedings should include at least the designation of the parties, precise specification of the request, indication of the type of proceedings (mediation, conciliation or imposing a solution) and the signature of the applicant - the so-called "minimum data". The application should also be accompanied by documents specified in the ADR entity's rules of procedure. If the application does not contain all the necessary documents, the ADR entity shall call for its completion and only after such completion may the application be considered as complete. Once a complete application has been submitted, the ADR entity is obliged to communicate the outcome of the procedure to the parties within 90 days (in the case of a particularly complex dispute, this time limit may be extended).
There is a strong emphasis on conducting proceedings in electronic form. The ADR entity must be prepared to accept the consumer's request and its annexes in electronic form and allow for the exchange of information between the parties by electronic means. However, the possibility of paper submission and exchange of information in the traditional form will remain available.
The ADR institution is obliged to inform the parties that the consent to settle the dispute through mediation or conciliation does not close the way of asserting their rights before the common court. On the other hand, settlement of a dispute by an arbitration court is legally binding and has the force of a decision of a common court, and a complaint may be lodged with a common court only in the case of formal reservations.
Refusal to settle the dispute
The ADR entity may refuse to resolve consumer disputes out of court only in strictly defined cases:
- the applicant has not attempted to contact the other party and resolve the dispute directly before submitting the application
- the dispute is trivial or the application to initiate proceedings will cause inconvenience to the other party
- a case for the same claim between the parties is pending or has been dealt with by another qualified entity
- the value of the dispute is higher or lower than the thresholds laid down in the Rules of Procedure
- the deadline for submitting an application, as laid down in the Rules of Procedure, has not been complied with
- the resolution of the dispute would cause serious disruption to the rightholder
However, the ADR entity may choose in its rules and regulations which of the above situations will constitute a ground for refusing to examine cases, but it may not refuse to examine disputes on other grounds. If the entitled entity refuses to examine the dispute, it is obliged to inform the parties of the reason for the refusal within 3 weeks from the date of delivery of a complete application.
Information obligations of entrepreneurs
The Act gives rise to new information obligations on the part of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is obliged to provide the name of the ADR entity to which the consumer may turn in order to resolve the dispute out of court on his website or in contracts concluded with consumers. If the complaint is rejected, the entrepreneur will have to automatically inform the consumer whether he agrees to settle the dispute out of court or not. Failure to provide such information will mean that the entrepreneur agrees to settle the dispute out of court.