European Commission

 

Enforcement fiche for Greece



I. ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT
Which administrative mechanisms are available to enforce the UCP Directive?

In Greece the Directive is incorporated in the law 2251/1994 (as amended by law 3587/2007) on Consumer Protection. The general enforcement of this law is enacted by the Secretariat General for Consumers of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness. This administrative body is responsible for the auditing or the enforcement of the legal provisions relevant to consumer protection (and as such of the Consumer Protection Law part of which are the Unfair Trade Practices provisions) and is competent for receiving administrative complaints. The official website of the Secretariat General for Consumers is www.efpolis.gr

Who can file administrative complaints?

The Secretariat General for Consumers receives complaints by every natural or legal person.

Do any specific procedural requirements apply to filing administrative complaints?

A complaint can be filed in the following ways: a) By submitting an on line form of complaint directed to the Secretariat General for Consumers that can be found at http://www.1520.gov.gr/anonymi-ypiresies for anonymous complaints or http://www.1520.gov.gr/eponymi-ypiresies for eponymous complaints, b) By downloading, filling and sending the form provided in the site of the Secretariat General for Consumers at http://www.1520.gov.gr/entypo-paraponon to the address indicated c) By contacting the dedicated consumer protection line 1520 and make an oral complaint d) By contacting the following Directorates: Directorate of Consumer Protection and Directorate of Technical Control. The complaint can be either eponymous or anonymous. According to article 13B of the law no 2251/1994, which was added by paragraph 2 of the article 42 of the law no 4177/2013, complaints received by the Secretariat General for Consumers are divided into the following categories:
a) Complaints that do not fall within the competence of the Secretariat General for Consumers according to the provisions of the law no 2251/1994. Those are forwarded to the appropriate Authority and the complainant is informed within 10 days.
b) Complaints that include a request that is not precise, non comprehensible or that includes a request that is repeated in an abusive way. Those complaints are immediately dismissed and set into the archive. The complainant is informed within 30 days. In addition, the  Secretariat General for Consumers is not obliged to answer in consumers’ complaints that are not related to infringements of the provisions of the consumer protection law  no 2251/1994.
c) Complaints that fall within the competence of Secretariat General for Consumers according to the law no 2251/1994. In this case, the Secretariat General for Consumers evaluates the necessity to further investigate the case, taking under consideration especially the possible impact of the potential outcome of the case to the public interest, to the protection of public health and of the consumers’ security as well as the possible effects in consumers in general or in sensitive population groups in particular. If the head of the Directorate of Protection evaluates that a complaint must be further investigated, he assigns the case to the appropriate Unit. The head of the Directorate may temporary file some cases until additional details that establish the necessity of investigation arise. The Minister of Development and Competiveness or the Secretariat General for Comsumer , may ask during the investigation stage for the opinion of the Ombudsman of the Consumer on the case. The Ombudsman must provide a justified answer to the complaint within 2 months. The Secretariat must issue a decision within reasonable time.
If the Secretariat General for Consumers assess that there is no need to further investigate a complaint the complainant is informed accordingly.

Do the administrative authorities have an obligation to investigate the complaint?

Following article 13 a) of the law 2251/1994 (as amended by article 17 of law 3587/2007) the Secretariat General for Consumers must forward the complaint to the supplier with an invitation to reply to the allegations made within a specific period of time set by the General Secretariat. The supplier is then obliged to respond within this term (if not penalties might apply). Based on the categories of complaints submitted to the Secretariat General for Consumers according to article 13B of the law no 2251/1994 above, as mentioned in detail in the previous question the following should be mentioned:
a) Complaints that do not fall within the competence of the Secretariat General for Consumers according to the provisions of the law no 2251/1994. Those are forwarded to the appropriate Authority and the complainant is informed within 10 days.
b) Complaints that include a request that is not precise, non comprehensible or that includes a request that is repeated in an abusive way. Those complaints are immediately dismissed and set into the archive. The complainant is informed within 30 days. In addition, the  Secretariat General for Consumers is not obliged to answer in consumers’ complaints that are not related to infringements of the provisions of the consumer protection law  no 2251/1994.
c) Complaints that fall within the competence of Secretariat General for Consumers according to the law no 2251/1994. In this case, the Secretariat General for Consumers evaluates the necessity to further investigate the case, taking under consideration especially the possible impact of the potential outcome of the case to the public interest ,to the protection of public health and of the consumers’ security as well as the possible effects in consumers in general or in sensitive population groups in particular. If the head of the Directorate of Protection evaluates that a complaint must be further investigated, he assigns the case to the appropriate Unit. The head of the Directorate may temporary file some cases until additional details that establish the necessity of investigation arise. The Minister of Development and Competiveness or the Secretariat General for Consumer , may ask during the investigation stage for the opinion of the Ombudsman of the Consumer on the case. The Ombudsman must provide a justified answer to the complaint within 2 months. The Secretariat must issue a decision within reasonable time.
If the Secretariat General for Consumers assess that there is no need to further investigate a complaint the complainant is informed accordingly.
 

Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities?

The law 2251/1994 (as amended and in force) does not contain any such requirements.

II. ENFORCEMENT THROUGH COURT ACTION
Which court actions are available to enforce the UCP Directive?

It is possible to file a claim before the Civil Courts. In case of a collective action from a consumer association competent is the multiple member Civil Court of First Instance of the place of residence of the plaintiff.

Who can start a court action?

A court action can be initiated by a consumer or/and a consumer association (this refers only to consumer associations that have more than 500 members and that have been registered in the consumer association’s public registrar for over than one year – individual interest is not necessary).

Can court actions be initiated by competitors?

It seems that a competitor does not have the capacity to file a claim under the law 2251/1994 (as amended by law 3587/2007) since only consumers and consumer associations (as described previously) have the right to act as a plaintiff in such cases (the definition of consumers held in articles 1 paragraph 4 and 9 a) s. a) as amended by article 12 of the law 3587/2007, does not refer to competitors).

Can the case be handled through an accelerated procedure?

Collective claims filed by consumer associations follow the special proceedings of voluntary jurisdiction which are faster than the ordinary proceedings. It is also possible to order the enforcement of the judgment on an interim basis. In any case, it is also possible to follow the general interlocutory proceedings and to obtain an interim decision till the final decision is held by the ordinary Courts. In that case however the urgency of the matter at stake must be proved.

Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the court?

According to article 9 i) paragraph 3 of the law 2251/1994 (as amended by article 12 of the law 3587/2007): “The supplier accused of infringing the provisions of this part shall be obliged to provide the Court with evidence on the accuracy of the actual claims made concerning the commercial practice, where this is considered necessary by the court in light of the circumstances of the specific case having regard to the legitimate interests of all parties. If this evidence is not submitted or is found inadequate, the claims or the plaintiff consumer/s shall be deemed to be true.”

III. SANCTIONS
What are the possible civil sanctions and remedies for the infringement of the UCP provisions?

It is possible to file a claim before the Civil Courts in order to stop an unfair commercial practice and to impede it from being repeated in the future. It is also possible to file for a preventive claim before the Civil Courts asking the Court to order the omission of an unfair commercial practice that has not yet been carried out (omission of a future action). In addition it is possible to ask for damages as well as for any non-pecuniary losses. It is also possible to achieve the seizure of the products especially in cases of products that are dangerous for the safety of the public and the public health. In addition it is possible to ask for the publication of the judgment.

What are the possible criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?

There are no direct provisions for criminal sanctions in the law 2251/1994 (as amended). However there are other legal documents that provide for criminal sanctions in specific cases of unfair trade practices (such as for example in the case of unfair competition or in the case of misleading advertising in specific areas of practice– i.e. insurance companies, food companies, medical companies etc). Also criminal sanctions can be imposed following the provisions of the Greek Penal Code.

What are the possible administrative sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?

As far as the administrative sanctions are concerned the law stipulates that (in articles 13a paragraphs 2-3 of law 2251/1994 as amended by article 17 of law 3587/2007 and law no 4177/2013):
“Without prejudice to the provisions of the Penal Code, to the Rules Regulating the Purchase of Products and the Provision of Services and to the rules set forth in other special laws, against those suppliers that infringe the provisions of the present law, following a decision of the Minister of Development and Competitiveness, that is initiated after a complaint or at its own motion, one or more of the following penalties are imposed:
a) A recommendation to comply within a specific deadline and to stop the infringement and omission in the future.
b) A fine ranging from one thousand five hundred (1.500) to one million (1.000.000) euros. In case that more than three (3) decisions imposing a fine are issued for the same supplier, the maximum limit shall be doubled.
c) The temporary suspension of the business operation or of its part thereof for a period ranging from three (3) months to one (1) year in case that more than three (3) decisions imposing a fine to the same supplier are issued.
In addition, the following steps may be taken by the Minister of Development in relation to a supplier who does not reply to customer complaints in accordance with paragraph 1: a) A recommendation for compliance within a specific deadline, under threat of fine, b) imposition of a fine ranging from €500 to €5 000, c) imposition of a fine ranging from €5 000 to €50 000 in case of recalcitrance."
 

What are the contractual consequences of an administrative order or a judgement relating to an unfair commercial practice on an individual transaction?

In case that a collective claim has been filed by a consumer association, the legal consequences of the ruling of the Court shall apply to everyone even if they are not parties to the action. In case however that the claim was filed by a single consumer, the ruling of the Court is enforced only between the parties that participated in the action. The most common contractual consequence is to render the specific clause void at the benefit of the consumer. Nonetheless, the Minister of Development may issue a decision published in the Government Gazette setting out the terms and conditions for adapting the business activity of suppliers to the res judicata of final court rulings in consumer or consumer association actions where the consequences of that res judicata are of wider public interest for the problem-free operation of the market and consumer protection.

How can consumers get redress/compensation (e.g. through collective actions)?

According to article 9i a) of the law 2251/1994(as amended by article 12 of the law 3587/2007) and to article 10 paragraph 16 of the law 2251/1994 (as amended) it is possible to get redress either through a single consumer action or through a collective claim filed by a consumer association. On the first case the redress will be awarded to the consumer personally, whereas on the second case, 20% from the amount awarded is allocated to the Secretariat General for Consumers, within one month from payment, in order to promote the policies for the protection of the consumer and to educate the employees of the Secretariat General for Consumers
(article 10 par. 22 of the law 2251/1994 as amended by article 13 of the law 3587/2007 and as further amended by par. 5 of article 40 of the law 4177/2013).
 

Can the administrative authorities or the courts require the publication of their decisions?

Yes, it is possible that the Court orders the publication of the decision (in whole or in part). As far as the administrative enforcement is concerned, the Minister of Development may, taking into account the nature and gravity of the infringement, and the consequences on consumers in general, publish in the press or other reasonable means, the sanctions imposed to a supplier by the Secretariat General for Consumers.

IV. OTHER TYPES OF ENFORCEMENT
Are there any self-regulatory enforcement systems in your jurisdiction that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive?

There are several self-regulatory efforts in Greece. One of the most characteristic examples is the Greek Advertising and Communication Code of Conduct set in 2007 by the Board of Control of Communication, by the Union of Advertising and Communication Companies and the TV and Radio Stations of Greece. It sets the rules of professional code of ethics and behaviour of all those who are related to advertising towards the citizens-consumers. Two Committees are responsible for the enforcement of this Code: the primary one and the secondary one. Another characteristic example is the Code of Ethics for the Provision of Electronic Services to the Consumers signed by the major mobile operators in Greece and ratified by the Greek Committee of Telecommunications (EETT). This Code that was adopted in 2008 is in line with the consumer protection provisions and specifies the rules of conduct for the electronic communications sector. The enforcement of this Code is being monitored by the Greek Committee of Telecommunications (EETT). There is also the Code of Ethics related to the advertisement of banking and financial services, signed by the major Greek Bank that has been ratified by the Hellenic Banking Association who is also responsible for its enforcement.

Are there any mediating services that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive (e.g., an ombudsman)?

In Greece there are also several mediating services related to consumer protection. With the law 3297/2004 the Ombudsman of the Consumer was set as an Independent Administrative Body who acts among others as an alternative dispute resolution body. In addition, article 11 of the law 2251/1994 (as amended by article 14 of the law 3587/2007) introduces the Amicable Settlement Committees that function in each of the 50 Prefectures in Greece under the auspices of the Ombudsman of the Consumer. Their role is to enable the amicable settlement of disputes between consumers and suppliers. However, the committee findings do not have the effect of a court ruling nor are they enforceable. In addition, the Bank Ombudsman was also established who deals among others with the unfair trade practices of Banks towards consumers.