European Commission

 

Enforcement fiche for Bulgaria



I. ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT
Which administrative mechanisms are available to enforce the UCP Directive? In Bulgaria, the UCP Directive is implemented in the Consumers Protection Act, promulgated State Gazette 99, dated 9.12.2005, as amended periodically (the "Consumers Protection Act"). The general enforcement of this Act is handled by the Consumers Protection Commission (CPC) (in Bulgarian: "Комисия за защита на потребителите") with the Ministry of the Economy, Energy and Tourism (MEET). The CPC proactively enforces the Consumers Protection Act, and is also competent for receiving administrative complaints. The official website of the CPC could be found at http://www.kzp.bg Along with the above, Bulgarian Competition Protection Act promulgated State Gazette 102, dated 28.11.2008, as amended periodically ("Competition Protection Act ") provides for a mechanism to enforce the UCP Directive with respect to competitors. In such case the competent regulatory authority is the Consumers Protection Commission (in Bulgarian: "Комисия за защита на конкуренцията"). The official website of the commission could be found at http://www.cpc.bg
Who can file administrative complaints? Consumers could file administrative complaints in case of violation of their rights under the Consumers Protection Act (Art. 68л and Art.178 of the Consumers Protection Act). The Consumers Protection Act allows administrative complaints to be filed also by consumers associations under Art. 167 of the Consumers Protection Act ("Consumers Associations") (Art. 186, 188 and 189 of the Consumers Protection Act). CPC could officially initiate investigations under the Consumers Protection Act (Art. 68л of the Consumers Protection Act). A competitor could not file an administrative complain against the UCP under the Consumers Protection Act. A competitor could initiate an administrative actions under the Competition Protection Act in case if the relevant activity fall into the definition of unfair competition under Art. 29 of the Act. Such actions could be initiated also by a prosecutor.
Do any specific procedural requirements apply to filing administrative complaints? Under the Consumers Protection Act a complaint could be filed verbally, in writing or in other proper form. In practise a complaint could be filed in the following ways: (i) by submitting an online form on the website of the CPC (http://kzp.bg/index.php?mode=viewd&group_id=12&document_id=19); (ii) it is also possible to download a form from the same website and send it in hard copy form to the CPC (http://kzp.bg/index.php?mode=sendComplaint&document_id_header=48&document_id_office=26); (iii) by phone on the official hot line of CPC (070011122) published on the CPC website (http://kzp.bg/index.php?mode=viewd&group_id=12&document_id=19); (iv) by electronic or regular post; (v) directly at the Registration office of CPC. Under the Competition Protection Act an investigation could be initiated by submitting a written request in a form approved by the Competition Protection Commission. and published on the website of the commission (http://cpc.bg/Additional/UnfairCompetitionTemplate.aspx)
Do the administrative authorities have an obligation to investigate the complaint? Yes. The Consumers Protection Act explicitly provides for obligation of the State authorities to register any consumer signals, complaints and applications submitted thereto and to initiate proceedings for consideration of such to investigation (Art. 179 of the Consumers Protection Act). The Competition Protection Commission should initiate an investigation in case of the statutory grounds, including a request from a person whose interests are affected or threatened by a violation of the Competition Protection Act (competitor) or a prosecutor (Art. 39 of the Competition Protection Act).
Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities? The Consumers Protection Act does not contain explicit requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities. Hence, the sample complaint form on the website of the CPC (http://kzp.bg/index.php?mode=viewd&group_id=12&document_id=19) contains a section for description of attached documents (if any), such as contracts, invoices, receipts, guarantee documents, warehouse documents, etc.
II. ENFORCEMENT THROUGH COURT ACTION
Which court actions are available to enforce the UCP Directive? Chapter IX, Section III of the Consumers Protection Act provides for a specific collective protection through collective claims before the competent civil courts. A collective claim could be initiated for: (i) cessation of or prohibition of any actions or commercial practices which infringe on the collective interests of the consumers (Art. 186 of the Consumers Protection Act); (ii) compensation for damages caused to the consumers' collective interests (Art. 188 of the Consumers Protection Act); (iii) compensation for damages caused to two or more consumers (Art. 189 of the Consumers Protection Act). In addition, a general claim for civil damages could be filed before the competent civil courts by any individual suffered damages from the infringement.
Who can start a court action? A collective claim could be initiated by the consumer associations or ex officio by CPC. A general claim for civil damages could be initiated by an individual who has suffered damages.
Can court actions be initiated by competitors? A competitor could initiate: (i) court actions under the Competition Protection Act in case of damages caused by infringements of the Act (Art.104 of the Competition Protection Act); (ii) a general claim for civil damages (Art.54 of the Obligations and Contracts Act).
Can the case be handled through an accelerated procedure? Yes. The claims under the Consumers Protection Act are governed by the Bulgarian Civil Proceedings Code (promulgated State Gazette 59, dated 20.07.2007, as amended periodically). The Code provides that claims for ascertainment and cessation of violation of rights under the Consumer Protection Act are subject to accelerated proceeding (Art.310 of the Civil Proceedings Code).
Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the court? No
III. SANCTIONS
What are the possible civil sanctions and remedies for the infringement of the UCP provisions? The competent civil court could award damages in the framework of a claim for civil damages. Such damages, however, should rather be interpreted as indemnifying measure (compensation) than as sanctions. Furthermore, the court could hand down a decision by which to: 1. oblige the producer, importer, trader and supplier to publish, in an appropriate form and at the own expense thereof, the court decision in full or in part and/or to publish a corrective statement, with a view to eliminating the effect of the infringement; 2. order the producer, importer, trader and supplier to cease the unlawful commercial practice or to remove from the contract the unfair terms within a specific time limit; 3. impose other appropriate measures for cessation of the infringements. In cases of any violation under the Consumers Protection Act sanctioned by CPC, the latter may recommend to the authority that has issued the licence/authorization for the respective business activity revocation of such licence/authorization.
What are the possible criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions? The CPC can not impose criminal sanctions. The Consumers Protection Act and the Bulgarian Criminal Code (Promulgated State Gazette 26, dated 02.04.1968, as amended periodically) provide no criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions.
What are the possible administrative sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions? Administrative sanctions in the form of fines for the infringement of the UCP provisions implemented nder the Consumers Protection Act range from BGN 50 to BGN 25,000 (€ 25 to € 12,500), and in case of repeated violation the sanction would be in a double amount - from BGN 100 to BGN 50,000 (approximate € 50 to € 25,000). More particularly such administrative sanctions are: - A fine coming from BGN 500 to BGN 10,000 (approximate € 250 to € 5,000) for violation of Article 68c, Article 68d, Items 1 to 11, 13, 15, 18 to 23 of Article 68g and Items 3 to 6 of Article 68j; - A fine coming from BGN 1,000 to BGN 15,000 (approximate € 500 to € 7,500) for violation of Items 12, 14, 16 and 16 of Article 68g and Items 1, 2, 7 and 8 of Article 68j; - A fine coming from BGN 1,000 to BGN 10,000 (approximate € 500 to € 5,000) for failure to comply with an order as per Article 68l(1) or an order as per Article 68l(3); - A fine coming from BGN 5000 to BGN 25,000 (approximate € 2 500 to € 12,500) for failure to fulfil a court order to take measures under Article 189 of the Consumers Protection Act for cessation of infringements or for continuing the unlawful commercial practice or offering contracts with unfair terms to consumers despite an effective court order (Art. 226 of the Consumers Protection Act); - A fine coming from BGN 100 to BGN 500 (approximate € 50 to € 250) for violations of the Consumers Protection Act which are not explicitly defined in section "Administrative sanctions provisions" (Art. 228 of the Consumers Protection Act); - A fine coming from BGN 50 to BGN 500 (approximate € 25 to € 250) for violations of the ordinances and the other statutory acts for the application of the Consumers Protection Act and for which no sanctions are provided under the section "Administrative sanctions provisions" of the Consumers Protection Act (Art. 229 of the Consumers Protection Act); - A fine coming from BGN 200 to BGN 1,000 (approximate € 100 to € 500) for failure to execute a mandatory prescription by a consumer protection control authority for elimination of infringements and violations of the law, outside the cases under Art. 215 the Consumers Protection Act (Art. 230 of the Consumers Protection Act)
What are the contractual consequences of an administrative order or a judgement relating to an unfair commercial practice on an individual transaction? The Consumers Protection Act does not contain an explicit provision on this matter. However, each particular breach could be reviewed in light of the general provisions regulating validity and enforcement of contractual relations.
How can consumers get redress/compensation (e.g. through collective actions)? Consumers could get redress/compensation through: (i) a collective claim for compensation for damages caused to the consumers' collective interests (art. 188 of the Consumers Protection Act); (ii) a collective claim for compensation for damages caused to two or more consumers (art. 189 of the Consumers Protection Act); (iii) an individual claim for civil damages, even when they did not initiate a conciliation procedure before the Conciliation Committee. Such claim for damages is subject to the general rules of Bulgarian tort law (art. 54 of the Bulgarian Obligations and Contracts Act), which provide that a person liable for a damage caused guiltily by another has a claim against the latter for what was paid.
Can the administrative authorities or the courts require the publication of their decisions? In case when the unfair practices are related to advertising activities, the Chairperson of the CPC could order the advertiser and/or advertising agency to publicly announce at their own expense and in an appropriate manner the decision ascertaining the violation as well as the duly changed advertisement (Art.68л of the Consumers Protection Act). Also, the Court could order its decision (or a summary thereof) and/or a corrective statement, with a view to eliminating the effect of the infringement to be published by the producer, importer, trader and supplier in an appropriate form and at the own expense (Art.187 of the Consumers Protection Act).
IV. OTHER TYPES OF ENFORCEMENT
Are there any self-regulatory enforcement systems in your jurisdiction that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive? Bulgaria has several self-regulatory enforcement systems. The most relevant example is the Ethic Commission with the National Counsel for Self-Regulation acting in the advertising sector ("NCSR") (in Bulgarian: "Етична комисия" към "Национален съвет за саморегулация"). The Ethic Commission is a self-regulatory body established by the NCSR. The Ethic Commission monitors the performance of the National Ethic Rules for Advertising and Commercial Communications in Bulgaria ("Ethic Rules") adopted by the NCSR. It investigates complaints for violation of the Ethic Rules from any interested individual, legal entity, or state authority. The Ethic Commission could officially initiate an investigation. When the advertiser refuses to comply with the recommendations of the Ethic Commission, the Ethic Commission will notify for the case all its members (such as TV stations, newspapers, magazines …) and may request them not to broadcast such advertisement, as well as the competent regulatory authorities.
Are there any mediating services that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive (e.g., an ombudsman)? Chapter IX, Section II of the Consumers Protection Act provides for a specific conciliation procedure, handled by a conciliation committee with the MEET (the "Conciliation Committee"). The proceeding before a Conciliation Committee is not a mandatory prerequisite for bringing a court action. The Conciliation Committee assists the voluntary settlement of disputes through reaching an agreement between the parties to the dispute. If a party to a dispute fails to meet the obligations thereof under the agreement, the other party has right to start court actions for consideration of the dispute subject to the agreement. The Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: "Омбудсман на Република България") under the Bulgarian Ombudsman Act, promulgated in State Gazette 48, dated 23.05.2003, as amended periodically, deals at its sole discretion or with complaints from individuals when their rights and freedoms have been violated by actions or omissions of the State and municipal authorities and the administrations thereof, as well as by the public services providers (such as: telecommunications, electricity and water supply, health, education, etc.). He is entitled to review complaints, provide proposals and recommendations to the respective authorities, mediate between the administrative authorities and the individuals. In order to acquire a better understanding of the pending complaints, the Ombudsman could ask the relevant authority/provider for any necessary information. The Ombudsman could not impose any sanctions. Bulgarian Mediation Act, promulgated in State Gazette 110, dated 17.12.2004 provides also for the Mediation (Bulgarian: "Медиация") as a tool that deal with consumers complains. Since the Mediation Act explicitly provides that the Mediation