Who is a consumer
In the event of any disputes between a trader and a customer, it is the customer who is considered the weaker party and thus covered with special protection. A consumer is a natural person who is not a business operator.
The institution responsible for protecting consumer rights in Poland is the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (Urząd Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów, UOKiK). On its website, you may find detailed information on consumer protection laws, obligations of traders and product safety.
Please note! Since 1 January 2021 certain forms of consumer protection are also available to natural persons who run a one-person business. However, this applies only to contracts concluded in relation to their business activity and which are not of professional nature for such business operators. Such contracts will be covered with consumer protection, including in particular the following:
- contracts concluded between them and traders may not contain any prohibited clauses
- they can use extended protection under warranty
- they can withdraw from a distance contract or an off-premises contract within 14 days
Find out more about situations when business operators are entitled to consumer rights.
In your relations with customers you need to remember that:
- in accordance with legal provisions, consumers are considered to be the weaker party to the contract
- among the most important consumer rights are: the right to withdraw from the contract and the right to make a defective product claim under a warranty or a guarantee
- contracts may not include any prohibited clauses
- in resolving any consumer disputes special institutions may help, such as the Trade Inspection offices
Read the UOKiK guide on consumer protection regulations for business operators.
Defective product claims
Anyone who has made a purchase has the right to submit a defective product claim/ complaint about a service. The claim or complaint may be submitted under warranty (rękojmia) or guarantee (gwarancja) regulations, if a guarantee has been granted. The choice is up to the consumer.
Under a warranty, it is the trader who is responsible for any defects in the product. Therefore, a defective product claim under warranty should be submitted to the trader. The basis of the claim may be a physical defect (non-compliant product) or a legal defect of the purchased goods.
A claim does not have to be in writing, however, the written form is the safest as it constitutes proof that the claim has been submitted. The claim may specify the defect and the request of the consumer. It should be submitted directly with the trader. It may be also sent by post, for instance by registered mail with delivery confirmation.
Please note! The trader must not make acceptance of the claim conditional on the presentation of the cash register receipt by the consumer. The cash register receipt is only proof that a contract has been concluded. The trader is liable for a defective product for 2 years from its delivery. This does not apply to a claim concerning any real property – in this case the warranty period is 5 years. In the case of products that have not been used by the consumer, the period for a defective product claim under warranty may not be shortened. In the case of products that have been used by the consumer, the trader may limit the liability period to a maximum of one year. The consumer must be informed of the shorter warranty period before the contract is concluded.
Goods (products) are movable property which are on sale, such as: a washing machine, fruit, furniture.
A physical defect of the product means that the product is non-compliant with the contract. The product has a physical defect if:
- it lacks the characteristics which a product of this type should have, for instance when a phone disconnects calls or a heatproof pot breaks as a result of high temperature
- it lacks the characteristics described by the trader or in an advertisement, for instance when a medical device does not have the healing characteristics described by a shop assistant
- it is not fit for the purpose given by the trader upon concluding the contract, and if the trader has not made any reservations as regards the product’s future purpose – for instance if a watch is waterproof only up to 20m underwater, and before making the purchase the consumer informed the trader that they were planning to dive deeper than that
- it has been delivered to the consumer incomplete, for instance a laptop without the charger (although it should be included)
A legal defect means that the product:
- is owned by a third party, for instance it has been stolen
- is subject to a right of a third party, for instance another person has the right of first refusal
- its use or disposal is limited as a result of a decision or order of a relevant authority, for instance if it has been seized as evidence in criminal proceedings
Under warranty, the consumer may demand from the trader:
- that the product be replaced with a new one
- that the product be repaired
- that the price be reduced
- withdrawal from the contract if the defect is significant
Upon the first defective product claim, the trader may propose a different solution than the one chosen by the consumer, however, they must consider the following circumstances:
- whether the product may be easily or quickly replaced or repaired
- whether the defect is a significant one
- whether there have been other claims in relation to the product
The trader must reply to the claim within 14 days.
A guarantee is a voluntary statement as regards the quality of the product, made by the business operator – the guarantor, that is the producer, importer, distributor or trader. It should be written in Polish, in a clear and understandable manner.
Please note! A guarantee is given by means of a guarantee statement made by the guarantor, in any form, also as part of an advertisement – any information on the guarantee on the product included in an advert constitutes a guarantee statement.
A guarantee specifies obligations of the guarantor and the rights of the consumer if the product sold does not have the characteristics described in the guarantee statement.
A guarantee should specify in particular:
- name and address of the guarantor or its representative in Poland
- term and territory of the guarantee protection
- rights of the consumer in the event of a defect
- the following statement: “Guarantee does not exclude, limit or suspend the rights of the buyer under the regulations on warranty as regards any defects in the item sold.”
The guarantee period is set by the guarantor. It may be specified in any way. However, if the guarantee period has not been specified, the guarantee is for 2 years from the product delivery.
If the guarantor has replaced a defective product with a new one or has made significant repairs to it, the guarantee period begins to run anew, from the moment of delivering the new or repaired product to the customer.
In the event only a single part of the product is replaced, the guarantee period starts anew for this particular part. If a claim to have a defective product replaced or repaired was rejected by the guarantor, or the repair was not significant, or the consumer demanded actions other than replacement or repair – the guarantee period is extended by the time during which the consumer was not able to use the product due to the submitted claim.
Complaint about services
A consumer has the right to make a complaint regarding a service if they decide that the service has not been provided properly. However, this does not apply to the following services:
- social services, such as contracts for childcare
- gambling-related services
- delivery of food and household products for everyday consumption to the consumer’s place of residence, stay or work
- services provided at automated points of sale, such as vending machines with beverages
- healthcare services
- tourist events, such as tours
- services of property developers, such as purchase of an apartment
The procedure for making a complaint depends on whether the service has been performed under a contract for specific work (in Polish: umowa o dzieło, for instance for custom-made furniture) or a contract of mandate (in Polish: umowa zlecenie, for instance for a service performed on a continuous basis).
If a specific work performed by your business has defects, the consumer is entitled to make a complaint. The same rules apply as in the case of consumption goods, under warranty or guarantee. Also, the consumer has the right to withdraw from the contract and demand reimbursement of money if you are starting the work late or if you are performing it in a manner which suggests that it is not going to be completed by the deadline.
In the case of a contract of mandate you may be liable for the lack of due care. The liability of the trader covers also any damages incurred by the consumer as a result of your non-performance or improper performance of the service ordered. However, the consumer must demonstrate that such damages actually result from such non-performance or improper performance.
Returning the product to a brick-and-mortar store
A trader does not have to accept any returned products bought at a brick-and-mortar store only because the customer has changed their mind. Some traders grant the right to return products within a specified time limit and subject to specific conditions – however, this results only from their sales policy and not any legal obligations.
In their regulations of a brick-and-mortar store, a trader may specify that products can be returned in a specific condition, for instance within 14 or 30 days from the purchase, subject to specific conditions, for instance only with a cash register receipt, original labels, and undamaged.
The consumer must pay all direct costs of returning a product, including the costs of packaging, securing and posting the product, unless the trader has agreed to pay those on their own, or has not informed the consumer that they need to pay such costs.
Returning a product bought online or off-premises
If a product has been sold outside the business premises, for instance during a product show, the consumer may withdraw from the contract of sale within 14 days without giving any reasons and without any additional costs, and the trader must reimburse them the purchase price.
If you have not informed the customer of the costs they need to cover in relation to a product return upon their withdrawal from the contract, you must pay the costs of such product return, for instance the delivery costs.
If the product has been sold online, the customer has 14 days to return it and demand reimbursement of the purchase price without giving any reasons. The product may be unpacked and initially tested but it may not have any traces of use.
The 14-day period, for products bought both online and off-premises, starts:
- for contracts where the trader delivers an item and is also required to transfer its ownership – on the date when the product is delivered to the consumer or a person indicated by the consumer, other than the carrier
- for contracts for many items delivered separately, in batches or in parts – on the date when the consumer receives the last item, batch or part
- for contracts for regular delivery of products over a specified period of time – on the date when the consumer receives the first of all items
- for all other contracts – on the date of the contract
Please note! If you have not informed the consumer of their right to withdraw from the contract, this right will expire 12 months from the date following the 14-day period for returning the product. However, if you have informed the consumer of their right to withdraw from the contract before such 12-month period ends, the right to withdraw from the contract will expire 14 days after the consumer is informed of this right.
How to return a product bought online or off-premises
In order to withdraw from a contract of sale, the consumer must submit their declaration on withdrawal from the contract to the trader. This may be done in many forms, for instance by submitting:
- a form attached to the Act on consumer rights
- a model declaration provided by UOKiK
- an online form – in this case it is required that the consumer receives confirmation that their declaration has been received
A written declaration may be sent by traditional post, by e-mail or submitted in person at the trader’s premises. When sending the declaration by traditional mail, registered mail with delivery confirmation is recommended, as it provides the consumer with proof of their withdrawal from the contract.
If the consumer has withdrawn from a remote contract or an off-premises contract, it is considered that such contract has not been concluded.
Please note! There is a group of products to which the regulations on the right to return products bought online do not apply. This group includes:
- products manufactured according to the specifications given by the consumer or explicitly custom-made, for instance custom-made furniture or engraved jewellery
- sealed goods which cannot be returned for health or hygiene reasons – if they have been opened after delivery, such as medical products, or baby wipes
If a consumer wishes to withdraw from a remote contract for a service while the contract performance has been started – upon the consumer’s explicit demand – before the lapse of the 14-day period for withdrawal from the contract, the consumer must pay for the services performed until the moment of their withdrawal from the contract. The amount due is calculated proportionally to the scope of the work performed, subject to the price or remuneration specified in the contract.
Find out how to trade online.
Who covers the costs of returning a product
If you sell products online, you must specify the costs of returning the products if any of the items may not be returned by post, for instance due to its size. If you have not informed your customers of this, you must pay for the transport of the product being returned.
In some cases you may be required to collect the goods from the customer. This will be the case if all of the following conditions are met:
- the sale has been concluded off-premises, for instance during a product show
- the product was delivered to the consumer’s place of residence
- the nature of the product makes it impossible to send it to the trader by post, for instance due to its size or complicated disassembly
If the customer wishes to withdraw from the contract but they have used the product in a manner exceeding simple testing, you may demand from the customer payment of additional costs on the grounds of the value of the product having been reduced. However, you will not have this right if you have not informed your customer of the possibility and ways of withdrawing from the contract.
When a product may not be returned
A consumer may not withdraw from a contract concluded online or off-premises if:
- the trader has fully performed the service with the consumer’s explicit consent, who had been informed before the service was performed that once the service was performed the consumer would lose the right to withdraw from the contract
- the price or remuneration depends on market fluctuations
- the subject of the service is an item manufactured according to the consumer’s specifications or to satisfy their individual needs
- the subject of the service is an item which goes bad quickly or has a short ‘best before’ date
- the subject of the service is an item delivered in a sealed packaging which cannot be returned for health or hygiene reasons once opened
- the subject of the service are items which – once delivered – due to their nature become inseparably connected with other items
- the subject of the service are alcoholic beverages with a price agreed upon when concluding the contract of sale, which can be delivered only after 30 days have passed and whose value depends on market fluctuations outside the control of the trader
- the consumer has explicitly demanded that the trader come to them to make an urgent repair or maintenance work; if the trader performs also services other than those demanded by the consumer, or delivers other products apart from the spare parts necessary for the repair or maintenance work, the consumer has the right to withdraw from the contract as regards such additional services or parts
- the subject of the service is a sound or video recording, or computer programmes delivered in a sealed packaging – if opened after delivery
- the subject of the service is delivery of daily or periodical newspapers, or magazines, apart from subscription contracts
- the contract has been concluded through public auction
- the contract for services concerns accommodation for non-residential purposes, transport of goods, rental of vehicles, catering, leisure, entertainment, sports or cultural events
- the contract specifies a date or a period when services consisting in delivery of digital contents not recorded on a tangible medium are to be performed, if those services started to be performed before the end of the period for withdrawal from the contract, upon the customer’s explicit consent, and if the consumer has been informed of the resulting loss of their right to withdraw from the contract
Also, the following may not subject of a demand for reimbursement:
- costs of any non-standard parcels if paid to meet the customer’s explicit wish
- costs not directly related to the return of the product if the consumer previously agreed with the trader that they would be paid
- costs of any service performed until the withdrawal from the contract for supply of water, gas, power or energy
Prohibited clauses in contracts with consumers
Contracts concluded with consumers may not include any prohibited provisions – so-called abusive clauses.
What is an abusive clause?
Abusive clauses are provisions in contracts concluded between consumers and traders that have not been individually consulted with the consumer (are part of the model contract prepared by the trader) and infringe on the interests of the consumer or specify the consumer’s rights and obligations in a manner contrary to good morals.
According to law, any contracts which include such provisions are not binding on the consumer.
An example of a prohibited clause may be a clause making termination of the contract by the consumer dependent on their payment of a penalty fee, or a clause excluding the company’s liability for non-performance or improper performance of an obligation.
The Office for Competition and Consumer Protection lists also other examples of prohibited clauses. The list include clauses which:
- exclude or limit liability towards the consumer for any personal injury
- include provisions which the consumer did not have a chance to read before concluding the contract
- provide for a transfer of the trader’s rights and obligations under the contract without the consumer’s consent
- make conclusion of the contract dependent on the consumer’s promise to conclude further similar contracts in the future
- make performance of the service conditional on the circumstances which are solely up to the trader’s will
- grant the trader the right to give binding interpretation of the contract
- entitle the trader to unilaterally amend the contract without any significant reasons indicated in the contract
- exclude the obligation to reimburse the consumer for the price paid for a service not performed in full or in part if the consumer has decided not to conclude or perform the contract
- deny solely the consumer the right to terminate, withdraw from or renounce the contract
- require from the consumer payment of a grossly high penalty or compensation fee for the consumer’s non-performance or withdrawal from the contract
- entitle only the trader to unilaterally amend the contract
- exclude the jurisdiction of Polish courts or provide for dispute resolution by a Polish or foreign arbitration court or another entity, or impose dispute resolution by a court which, according to the Act, has no jurisdiction over the matter
Please note! Any provisions that specify the performance of the main obligation between the parties, including the price or remuneration, if worded unambiguously, may not be considered a prohibited clause.
Actions that may be taken by the consumer
A consumer who believes that a contract of sale includes prohibited clauses may:
- bring an individual action against the trader before a common court
Please note! If a court finds the clause to be abusive, its contents will be included in the register of prohibited clauses kept by the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.
- notify the UOKiK President of their suspicion that the trader uses prohibited clauses in their contracts. The UOKiK President will initiate proceedings to determine whether the model contract contains prohibited clauses and may allow the consumer to take part in the proceedings as an interested party.
A notification to the UOKiK President should include:
- indication whether the consumer has contacted the trader to remove the disputed clause from the model contract
- information on the stance of the trader
- the model contract with the disputed provision
- arguments to support the statement that the model contract is contrary to good morals or grossly infringes on consumer interests
The proceedings to determine whether a provision of the model contract is a prohibited provision ends with an administrative decision by the UOKiK President, specifying whether the provision is a prohibited provision and whether the President forbids its further use.
The decision of the UOKiK President stating that the provision of the model contract is a prohibited one has effect only on the trader that used it and all consumers who concluded with the trader contracts containing such provision. The decision is included in the register of decisions issued by the UOKiK President.
How to amicably resolve a dispute with the consumer
You may come to a conclusion that the consumer who has submitted a complaint or a claim has excessive expectations or is mistaken in their interpretation of laws.
A dispute between the trader and the consumer may be resolved by the court or through out-of-court (amicable) methods, in particular through arbitration, mediation by the parties or by independent traders associations, business institutions or consumer organisations.
These methods are usually faster, cheaper and simpler for both consumers and traders, compared to court proceedings. Out-of-court dispute resolution is beneficial for traders as it allows for better management of their relations with consumers and maintaining good business reputation.
Institutions that offer amicable dispute resolution
A consumer residing in one of the EU Member States and a trader with their registered office in Poland may apply to the following institutions for dispute resolution:
- public entities dealing with resolution of general and multi-sectoral disputes from the entire territory of the country: Voivodeship Trade Inspection Offices (mediation) and Permanent Arbitration Consumer Courts (arbitration)
- sectoral entities organised within the structure of public entities:
- Arbitration Court at the President of the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE)
- Financial Ombudsman
- Arbitration Court at the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (UKNF)
- Rail Passenger Rights Ombudsman
- business entities: Banking Consumer Arbitration at the Association of Polish Banks
When a dispute may be resolved amicably
A dispute may be submitted for amicable resolution:
- upon the end of a defective product claim/complaint about the service process
- if both parties, that is the trader and the consumer, consent to it
- upon submission of an application for mediation or arbitration to the competent institution which is to resolve the dispute
Please note! A consent to resolve a dispute through mediation or conciliation does not exclude the right to pursue your rights before a common court. However, dispute resolution by an arbitration court is legally binding and has the force of a common court decision, and thus any complaints against such decision may be submitted to a common court only as regards the formal matters.
Who and when should submit an application
The application to initiate the proceedings should include at least indication of the parties to the dispute, a detailed description of the demand, indication of the type of proceedings (mediation, conciliation or imposed solution) and signature of the applicant. The application should be submitted with any attachments specified in the regulations of the institution which is to resolve the dispute.
The institution which is to resolve the dispute must be ready to receive the application with any attachments in an electronic form, and provide the parties with the possibility of information exchange through electronic means. However, the possibility of submitting the application in hard copy and exchanging information in a traditional manner should also be ensured.
The result of the proceedings should be communicated to the parties within 90 days from the date of submitting a complete application. In complex disputes, this time limit may be extended.
- which institutions may provide amicable resolution of disputes between traders and consumers
- information from UOKiK on amicable resolution of consumer disputes.
Please note! An application for mediation to the Voivodeship Trade Inspection Office may be submitted only by a consumer – and provided that the trader consents to this form of dispute resolution.
When an institution may refuse to help with dispute resolution
An institution which offers amicable dispute resolution may refuse to resolve a consumer dispute only in specifically described circumstances, namely:
- if the applicant has not made an attempt to contact the other party to the dispute to resolve the dispute directly
- the dispute is petty or the application for dispute resolution is burdensome for the other party to the dispute
- proceedings concerning the same claim and the same parties are already pending or have already been resolved by another authorised entity
- the value of the dispute is higher or lower than the thresholds specified in the institution’s regulations
- the time limit for submitting the application – as specified in the institution’s regulations – has not been met
- resolving the dispute would seriously disturb the functioning of the authorised entity
If the authorised entity refuses to handle the dispute, it must inform the parties of the reasons for such refusal within 3 weeks of the date when the complete application has been submitted.
Obligations of the trader
- the trader is required to include on its website or in the contracts with consumers information on the name of the entity to be contacted for out-of-court dispute resolution
- all online retail traders and traders in the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway must ensure easily accessible link to the ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) platform and an e-mail address to contact the trader. The ODR platform is a website of the European Commission which is an access point for consumers and traders who need out-of-court dispute resolution.
- if the trader refuses to accept a product claim/complaint about a service, they must inform the consumer whether they agree to out-of-court dispute resolution. If no such information is provided, this means that the trader consents to out-of-court dispute resolution.
Collective interests of consumers
Collective interests of consumers are protected by legal provisions. Collective interests of consumers are infringed when an illegal practice of a trader harms a group of consumers or an unlimited number of consumers, and poses a threat to every consumer who is or might be contracting with this trader. A practice infringing on the collective interests of consumers means, for instance:
- infringing upon the obligation to provide consumers with reliable, true and complete information
- unfair commercial practices
- proposing to the consumer to purchase financial services which do not meet their needs, based on the information on the characteristics of such consumers available to the trader, or proposing to the consumer that they buy such services in a manner inadequate to their nature.
A consumer may notify the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection of a suspected practice that infringes on collective interests of consumers. Such notification may be the basis for administrative proceedings initiated by the UOKiK President.