Analysis

The Act on Consumer Rights 

Legal alert (15/2014)

The Act on Consumer Rights of 30 May 2014 (Journal of Laws of 2014, item 827) will enter into force on 25 December 2014. The Act is particularly important for Internet traders, as their internal regulations and operations will need adjusting to the new law.

The Act on Consumer Rights of 30 May 2014 (Journal of Laws of 2014, item 827) will enter into force on 25 December 2014. The Act is particularly important for Internet traders, as their internal regulations and operations will need adjusting to the new law.

Application of the new law

The Act defines consumer rights and corresponding obligations of the trader, related to contracts negotiated in standard circumstances (i.e. at the premises of the trader) or in non-standard circumstances (i.e. away from business premises of the trader or distance contracts). In particular, it regulates the principles and the method of entering into contracts with consumers, information obligations of the trader and the execution of the consumer’s right to withdraw from the contract. The objective of the Act was also to combine provisions concerning Internet trade which used to be determined in various acts of law in one document.

Implementation of the Directive

Pursuant to the Act in question the provisions of the Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights (hereinafter the “Directive”) were transposed into the Polish law. The Directive was an example of maximum harmonization, i.e. Member States cannot maintain or introduce locally provisions incompliant with those determined in the Directive in the scope thereof.

Key provisions

Key provisions of the Act include:

  • Provisions changing responsibility for the quality of a product sold (in particular, the consumer will have the right to request reimbursing the price paid, replacing or repairing the faulty goods (at the discretion of the consumer) when the conditions specified in the Act have been met);
  • Functionalities of websites need modifying in order to meet additional information obligations (for instance, any additional payments to be made by the consumer require his explicit consent);
  • Provisions of law concerning the right to withdraw from a distance or an off-premises contract will be amended (in accordance with the new law the right in question may be exercised up to 14 (not 10) days of the contract date; the list of cases, however, where such right will not apply has been extended).

Note: Certain obligations of traders have been regulated in great detail. For instance, if placing an order entails activating a button or a similar function, the button or similar function must be labelled in an easily legible manner only with the words ‘order with obligation to pay’ or a corresponding unambiguous formulation.

Comments by expert: Starting from 25 December 2014 traders will be obliged to adjust website functionalities and their internal regulations to ensure compliance with the Act. The new provisions, however, will apply only to contracts entered into after the effective date of the Act in question. The objective of this Act and of the Directive was to strengthen the consumer’s legal position. To this aim, the previous regulations have been amended (longer period of withdrawal from a distance or off-premises contract and more detailed provisions concerning hidden costs including the trader’s obligation to disclose appropriate information and to obtain the consumer’s consent) and new obligations have been imposed on the trader (for instance the transaction may be closed only after the consumer has been informed of the obligation to pay for the order). Provisions concerning delivery and freight charges are a novelty. If a trader receives a statement setting out the consumer's decision to withdraw from the contract, he will be obliged to reimburse all payments made, including costs of delivery, limited to the least expensive type of standard delivery offered by the trader. The provisions of the Act are highly casuistic, therefore each Internet trader should take a closer look at his operations and internal regulations.

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