Consumer disputes resolution
Consumer law clearly establishes the rights and obligations of both the seller and the consumer (more details in the article Relations with the consumer). Your relationship with consumers should be characterised by honesty, integrity and professional diligence. It may happen that the expectations of consumer will be in your opinion too high or not correctly interpreted. Please note that such disputes do not always need to end at court. Out-of-court arrangements, such as arbitration and mediation are usually faster, cheaper and easier to use for consumers and entrepreneurs than going to court. Another form of ADR - alternative dispute resolution are complaints committees created jointly or separately by the business associations, economic institutions or consumer organisations.
Using extra-judicial dispute settlement mechanisms is beneficial for entrepreneurs also because that allow for better management of relationships with customers and good business reputation.
- Please note that a dispute may be submitted to an amicable settlement only after the complaint procedure is completed.
- Dispute settlement by mediation and arbitration requires the consent of both parties, i.e. the seller and the consumer.
- A request for mediation or arbitration shall be provided to the competent authority before which the proceedings will take place.
- In some institutions dealing with disputes amicably, applications can be submitted only by the consumer (provided that the entrepreneur gives consent to this form of dispute resolution).
Intermediary bodies for consumer disputes
Provincial Inspectorates of Trade Inspection
Provincial Inspectorates of the Trade Inspection operate Arbitration Consumer Courts (SPSK). They may also carry out mediation. They deal with disputes relating to the purchased product or service (including the purchase of shoes, white goods, renovation and costruction services). The consumer, entrepreneur, consumer organisation and district/municipal consumer ombudsman may bring the matter to SPSP. To start the procedure, you must submit a relevant application (application for mediation or for consensual resolution before arbitration consumer court) to the Voivodship Inspectorate of Trade Inspection. The list of inspectorates with contact details is available on the website of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. Further information regarding the procedures and costs can be found here.
Settlement and judgments of the Court of First Instance have the force of judgment of common courts. An appeal to the common court may be lodged against the judgment in the case of formal objections.
Mediation and the Arbitration Court of the President of the Office of Electronic Communications
This centre deals with disputes relating to mobile and fixed-line telephone services, internet access and the postal services. Proceedings shall be initiated upon request lodged with the Delegation of the UKE. Mediation is possible only if requested by a consumer who has signed a contract with the operator, uses the telephone for the purposes not directly related to the business activity or profession. These two conditions are not valid if the mediation procedure regards the postal services. More information can be found on the website of the Consumer Information Centre of the Office of Electronic Communications.
Financial Ombudsman has replaced the Insurance Ombudsman institution. He adjudicates disputes arising between consumers and insurance companies, pension companies, financial institutions. He represents the interests of the customers of financial market actors (such as customers of banks, insurance companies, payment institutions). The Financial Ombudsman does not take action in relations to complaints, inter alia, of commercial companies, foundations, associations, public administrations and offices, local authorities, cooperatives, state-owned enterprises. More information can be found here.
Arbitration Court of the Financial Supervision Authority
Arbitration Court of the Financial Supervision Authority shall settle disputes between financial market participants, in particular between financial institutions subject to supervision of Financial Supervision Authority and recipients of the services provided by it. Arbitration Court examines cases whose value of the object of litigation, as a general rule, exceeds PLN 500 and non-material rights. Both mediation proceedings as well as arbitration proceedings can be conducted. Judgment of the Arbitration Court of KNF and settlements reached before it, have after approval by the court with territorial jurisdiction legal force equivalent to common court. The judgment is not subject to appeal. Additional information and the conclusions are available on the website of the Financial Supervision Commission.
Banking Consumer Arbitration of Polish Bank Association
It handles disputes between consumers (customers of banks) and banks in the field of monetary claims arising from the non-performance or improper performance by a bank of banking activities or other activities in favour of consumers, whose value is not higher than PLN 8 000 (the value of the dispute and not to the agreement). The decision of the arbitrator shall be final for the bank, it is not possible to appeal the decision. If the consumer loses, he shall have the right to bring the case to the common court. More information is available on the website of the Polish Bank Association.
Union of Associations Advertising Council
The Advertising Council board deals with disputes in cases where the consumer considers that advertising is misleading or in different way infringes the principles of the Code of Advertising Ethics. Entrepreneurs can lodge complaints using a specific form - model forms are available here. The Commission does not examine complaints concerning advertising which, inter alia, were not distributed in Poland and whose advertiser has not established in Poland.
Online dispute resolution. The ODR platform
The ODR platform is an interactive website is a single point of entry to consumers and entrepreneurs seeking to resolve the dispute out of court (ODR - Online Dispute Resolution).
You can use it to make a complaint about goods or services you bought online, both at home and abroad. This is done by filling in an electronic form and finding a proper entity to handle the dispute.
Entrepreneurs established within the European Union and concluding agreements with consumers online and online intermediaries are obliged to provide on their website a link to the ODR platform and provide their e-mail address, as a first point of contact. The entrepreneur has to inform about the ODR platform, even if his disputes shall not be settled amicably.
- More on the ODR platform can be found on the website of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.