The new law on consumers’ rights imposes new obligations upon entrepreneurs
Legal alert (12/2014)
The Law of 30 May 2014 on consumers’ rights will take effect as from 25 December 2014. The new legal act extends the scope of the duties that currently burden entrepreneurs in their relations with consumers.
The long awaited Law of 30 May 2014 on consumers’ rights (Journal of Laws of 2014, item 827), further called: the Law, will take effect as from 25 December 2014. It will repeal two Acts that currently regulate the rights of consumers, namely the Act of 02 March 2000 on protecting certain consumers’ rights and the responsibility for damage caused by harmful products, and the Act of 27 July 2002 on special conditions of consumer sales.
The Law extends the scope of the duties that currently burden entrepreneurs in their relations with consumers. Considering that the e-commerce market has a great development potential in Poland and the number of transactions concluded on this market is soaring, it is worthwhile to have a closer look at our brief overview of the matters covered by the new legal act.
Broad range of the consumer’s right to information
As regards contracts entered into on the premises of the enterprise, the entrepreneur will be obliged to provide the consumer with specific information in a clear and unambiguous manner at the latest at the moment when the consumer expresses willingness to enter into a contract, unless such information can be derived from the circumstances of the transaction. Article 8 of the Act contains a detailed list of such information items, including in particular:
- the main attributes of the goods and services (supply),
- the identification data of the entrepreneur,
- the total price or the consideration including taxes or the method of price calculation,
- the contract duration, and the complaint handling procedure.
It should be highlighted that the aforesaid obligation does not concern petty everyday-life contracts that are executed immediately upon their conclusion.
As far as distance contracts (online transactions) or contracts entered into outside the premises of the enterprise (e.g. acquisition) go, 21 information items are obligatory, including, among others:
- indication of the costs of using the distance communication means to conclude the contract where such costs are higher than the ordinary costs of using that means of distance communication, and
- indication of the costs of the goods’ return to be borne by the consumer in the case of withdrawing from the contract.
The information is to be provided on paper or, with the consumer’s consent, on a different permanent carrier. Regarding online trading, the information should be provided in a manner that corresponds to the type of the distance communication method applied. In both cases the information should be clear and expressed in simple language, which – for many companies – will necessitate introducing new regulations.
The Law extends the timeframe allowed for withdrawal from the distance contract or the contract concluded outside the premises of the enterprise free of charge and without quoting the reason thereof from 10 to 14 days. In case the entrepreneur does not notify the consumer about the right to withdraw from the contract, the said contract withdrawal right expires upon the lapse of 12 months.
2. Returning the goods
If the consumer withdraws from the contract, without delay and not later than within 14 days from receiving the consumer’s statement to that effect, the entrepreneur will be obliged to refund all payments made by the consumer, including the costs of the goods’ delivery. If the entrepreneur does not propose to collect the goods in person from the consumer, the refund of the consumer’s payment can be made upon receipt of the goods or alternatively upon receipt of a proof confirming the consumer’s dispatch of the goods, depending on which of those events takes place earlier.
3. Cost split
A clear provision stipulating that the consumer should cover the direct costs of the goods’ return, unless the entrepreneur agrees to bear them or fails to inform the consumer of the need to pay such costs, is among the changes that are favourable for the entrepreneur. In addition, the consumer will be responsible for any decrease in the value of the goods if such a decrease results from using them is a manner exceeding the methods that are necessary to determine the character, attributes and the functioning of the goods, unless the entrepreneur has failed in the duty to notify the consumer about the right to withdraw from the contract.
The new regulations may become a source of many interpretative problems. At this stage entrepreneurs are mainly concerned that consumers might potentially abuse the right to return goods. Furthermore, in line with Article 51 of the Law, the currently binding regulations will apply to the contracts entered into before the effective date of the regulations discussed above, which implies that in practice, two different legal regimes will be binding at the same time.