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Case detail



Directive article Article 5 2.
Article 6 1.
Article 6 1. (g)
National ID Decision no. RPZ-29/2010
Country Poland Decision date 13/12/2010
Common name Decision type Administrative decision, first degree
Court Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów, Delegatura w Poznaniu Plaintiff(s) Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów
Court translation The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, Delegature in Poznań Defendant(s) POLKOMTEL S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw
Subject false information
Keywords terms & conditionscancellation of contractfalse informationlegal rightsmisleading commercial practicesrights of the trader

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Headnote

Introducing a contest for the trader's employees which results in providing false information by those employees to consumers in order to prevent the consumers from terminating an existing agreement when they are nonetheless entitled to do so, constitutes an unfair commercial practice.

Facts

The defendant is a company which provides telecommunication services.

In 2009, the defendant introduced new standard set of terms and conditions for consumers contracts. As a result of the increased number of terminations of those contracts, the defendant initiated a contest for its employees called "Licence for maintenance" ("Licencja na zatrzymanie"). The contest was designed to motivate the defendant's employees to prevent the customers from terminating the agreements to which they were entitled because of the amendments introduced to the standard terms and conditions of the consumer contracts.

As a result, the trader's employees gave false information by stating to customers who wanted to terminate the agreement that there were no technical possibilities to introduce the termination notice into the system; further, they equally refused to accept the written termination statements. The defendant argued that the increased number of terminations caused a system breakdown. Moreover, the trader's employees argued that the existing contract did not stipulate a termination option such as "amendments to the standard terms and conditions" and therefore, such termination could not be effected without the consumer being obliged to pay a termination penalty.

Legal issue

Is it an unfair commercial practice to introduce a contest for the trader's employees which results in providing false information by those employees to consumers in order to prevent the consumers from terminating an existing agreement?

Decision

The introduction of the "Licence for maintenance" contest resulted in the lack of possibility to make a termination notice. The consumers were misled with regard to their right to terminate the agreement. The President emphasized that it is a basic consumer right to have the possibility to terminate an agreement in case of change of the applicable standard terms and conditions. 

The President suggested that the defendant could have organized the processing of termination notices differently. It was difficult to determine what the nature of the technical problems was with regard to the system used for registration of termination notices, but in any case the defendant was obliged to accept such notices made in writing. 
 
Even in the event the termination was successfully filed, the employees of the defendant qualified such termination as made "due to other reasons", the result being that a contractual penalty was imposed on the consumer. Moreover, even after obtaining several complaints, the defendant did not take any steps to make sure such abuses did not occur in the future. 
 
The President concluded that the consumers were actually deprived of their right to terminate the agreement. They were misled by information given by the defendant's employees who acted in order to become eligible to get an award in the contest organized by the defendant. 
 
The President ruled that the defendant breached the prohibition on unfair commercial practices by introducing an employee contest that deprived the consumers of their right to terminate the agreement. It was held that the defendant had breached articles 24 section 1 and 2 point 3 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act. 

  URL Decision Decision full text
EN N/A
PL http://decyzje.uokik.gov.pl/dec_prez.nsf/0/4916DE74EEF44BD3C125780700357489/$file/Decyzja%20nr%20RPZ-29-2010%20z%2013.12.2010%20-%20POLKOMTEL%20S.A..pdf

Result

 

The commercial practice was found to be unfair.
 
The President imposed on the defendant a financial penalty amounting to PLN 8,097,586. 

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