European Commission

 

Enforcement fiche for Lithuania



I. ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT
Which administrative mechanisms are available to enforce the UCP Directive? In Lithuania, the Directive is implemented by the Republic of Lithuania Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices (“Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices“) and the Republic of Lithuania Law on Advertising (“Law on Advertising“). The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices is a new act adopted in December, 2007 solely for the implementation of the Directive. On the contrary, the Law on Advertising has been adopted almost ten years ago but in January, 2008 Articles 1, 2, 5, 6, 12, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25 of the this law have been amended in order to align the provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising with the provisions of the UCP Directive. The general enforcement of the Law on Prohibition of Unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices (except the provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising) is handled by the State Consumer Protection Authority (“Authority”) which controls the compliance with the provisions of this law. The general website of the Authority can be found at http://www.vartotojoteises.lt/. The enforcement of the provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising regulated in the Law on Prohibition of Unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices and the Law on Advertising is handled by the Competition Council of the Republic of Lithuania (“Competition Council”) which controls whether the advertising is not misleading and the comparative advertising is not unpermitted in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Law on Advertising and the Republic of Lithuania Law on Competition. The general website of the Council of Competition can be found at http://www.konkuren.lt/.
Who can file administrative complaints? Administrative complaints to the Authority concerning infringements of the provisions of Law on Prohibition of Unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices (except the provisions concerning misleading or comparative advertising) can be filed by the consumers, state and municipal institutions and agencies and the consumer associations. The Authority also has a right to initiate investigation procedure on the infringements of this law on its own initiative. Administrative complaints to the Competition Council concerning misleading or comparative advertising can be filed by undertakings having a legitimate interest, entities of public administration, associations or union representing the interests of undertakings or consumers. The Competition Council also has a right to initiate investigation procedure on the infringements concerning misleading and comparative advertising on its own initiative. Even though there is no provision explicitly stating that an application can be filed by consumers, in practice consumers can complain to the Competition Council. In this case, the Competition Council initiates the procedure itself. At the moment this provisional gap is being tackled and the list of applicants is going to be amended in the nearest future.
Do any specific procedural requirements apply to filing administrative complaints? A complaint concerning the infringement of the Law on Prohibition of Unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices (except the provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising) has to be filed to the Authority. A complaint must be filed in writing and can be directed to the Authority by electronic or regular application. An electronic application can be made by filling out the form downloaded on the website http://www.vartotojoteises.lt/index.php?540841968 and sending it by electronic mail (electronic signature is needed) or hard copy by regular mail. A regular application can also also be made by hand-writing a complaint and sending it to the Authority. In any case, factual circumstances of unfair commercial practices known to the applicant have to be indicated in the application and the available to the applicant documents confirming this have to be attached. It should be noted that before filing the complaint, applicant first has to address the issue to the seller or a service provider whose actions have allegedly breached the law. If a seller or service provider does not respond or does not satisfy the requirement of the applicant, the applicant can then file a complaint to the Authority. An application concerning the infringement of the provisions regulating misleading advertising and the comparative advertising has to be filed to the Competition Council. The application has to be filed in writing and directed to the Competition Council by regular mail or by bringing the complaint to the secretariat of the Competition Council. Factual circumstances of unfair commercial practices known to the applicant have to be indicated in the application and the available to the applicant documents confirming this have to be attached.
Do the administrative authorities have an obligation to investigate the complaint? The Authority has a right of limited discretion to decide whether to commence or refuse to commence the application examination procedure according to the provisions of the Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices. The authority can refuse to commence the application examination procedure under the following grounds: (i.) investigation of the infringement indicated in the application is not attributed to the competence of the Authority; (ii.) the factual data indicated in the application has already been checked and a decision has been adopted; (iii.) there is no factual data that would allow to reasonably suspect that there was an infringement of the law; (iv.) more than six months have passed from a day a person that can file a complaint became aware of an infringement indicated in the application to the submission of the application, but in all cases – more that three years have passed since the day of commitment of the infringement. The Competition Council has a right of limited discretion to decide whether to commence or refuse to commence the application examination procedure concerning the infringement of the provisions concerning misleading or comparative advertising. The Competition Council can refuse to commence the application procedure if there under the following grounds: (i.) the facts specified in the application are immaterial, causing no substantial damage to the interests protected; (ii.) investigation of the facts specified in the application is not within the remit of the Competition Council; (iii) the facts specified in the application have already been investigated and a resolution has already adopted on the issue; (iv.) the applicant has failed to provide, within the time period set by the Competition Council, the data and documents required to initiate an investigation; (v.) there is no data available allowing to reasonably suspect the infringement.
Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices and the Law on Advertising do not contain such requirements. Consequently, the applicants are simply asked to provide all the evidence they posses that is relevant to the infringement.
II. ENFORCEMENT THROUGH COURT ACTION
Which court actions are available to enforce the UCP Directive? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices does not contain any provision on this matter. Consequently, a general claim for civil damages may be filed before the competent civil courts. The situation slightly differs when the provisions concerning misleading or comparative advertising are breached. According to Article 26 of the Law on Advertising persons whose rights and law-protected interests have been violated while using the advertising prohibited by this law, have the right to appeal in court with a claim on: 1) cessation of use of the advertising; 2) compensation of the damage inflicted; 3) obligating to publish one or more statements of definite content, correcting the misleading advertising. The organisations representing operators of advertising activity or consumer interests and also advertising self-regulatory institutions have the rights to appeal in court with a claim on cessation of use of the advertising and on obligation to publish one or more statements of definite content, correcting the misleading advertising. Moreover, an appeal can be made against the decisions of the Authority or the Competition Council in the Administrative Courts according to the procedures established in the Law on Administrative Procedures.
Who can start a court action? Any person whose rights and law-protected interests have been violated can start a court action. In addition, an organization representing operators of advertising activity or consumer interests can start a court action concerning misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising.
Can court actions be initiated by competitors? Yes, although the applicant must prove its direct and legitimate interest.
Can the case be handled through an accelerated procedure? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices and the Law on Advertising do not contain any provisions on this matter. Consequently, the general rules as laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania are applicable.
Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the court? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices and the Law on Advertising do not contain any provisions on this matter. Consequently, the general rules as laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania are applicable. Only the evidence related to the case is investigated by court.
III. SANCTIONS
What are the possible civil sanctions and remedies for the infringement of the UCP provisions? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices does not contain provisions concerning the civil sanctions. The main body for imposing sanctions for the breach of this law (except the provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising) is the Authority which imposes administrative sanctions only. However, as mentioned before, a general claim for civil damages may be filed before the competent civil courts. The Law on Advertising indicates that the following civil sanctions for the breach of provisions concerning misleading and comparative advertising may be ordered by the competent court: cessation of use of the advertising; compensation of the damage inflicted; obligation to publish one or more statements of definite content, correcting the misleading advertising.
What are the possible criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions? There are no criminal sanctions foreseen for the infringement of the UCP provisions.
What are the possible administrative sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions? Under the Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices the Authority may impose a fine of 1 000 LTL to 30 000 LTL to commercial operators for unfair commercial practices (except misleading and comparative advertising), if this fine does not exceed 3 percent of the annual income of a commercial operator during the previous financial year. Where infringements were committed under aggravating circumstances specified in the law, a larger fine, up to 120 000 LTL, may be imposed to commercial operators, if this fine does not exceed 3 percent of the annual income of a commercial operator during the previous financial year. Where an infringement is minor and no substantial damage to the consumers’ interests protected by this law is made, the Authority may impose a following penalty to commercial operators for unfair commercial practices – a warning without imposing a fine. It must be noted, that commercial operators who do not agree with the decisions of the Authority on imposition of fines or a warning have the right to appeal to court against the decision within one month from the day of the receipt of thereof in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Republic of Lithuania Law on Administrative Procedures. Under the Law on Advertising the Council of Competition for the use of misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising may: (i) oblige undertakings to cease the use of misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising, by setting the time limit and conditions of implementation of the said obligation; (ii) temporally prohibit the dissemination of advertisement; (iii)impose an administrative penalty – warning that the fine shall be applied for failure to cease use of misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising within the time limit established by the Competition Councils; (iv.) oblige undertakings to issue a corrective statement regarding advertising that has been acknowledged as misleading or unpermitted comparative; (v) apply a fine amounting from 1 000 to 30 000 LTL, and in the cases when the violations have been committed under aggravating circumstances, the operators of advertising activity may be given a fine amounting up to 120 000 LTL. In the case when a violation is of little importance, when a violation does not cause essential damage to the persons’ interests protected by the Law on Advertising, the Competition Council, on the basis of the criteria of justice and reasonableness, may, for the use of misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising, impose an administrative penalty – warning, without imposing a fine on operators of advertising activity. For failure to implement a temporary ban by the Competition Council or for failure to implement the obligation to refute misleading or unpermitted comparative advertising, or for inadequate implementation of the obligation, operators of advertising activity shall be assigned a fine in the amount of 1 000 LTL for every day of failure to implement or inadequate implementation. Operators of advertising activity, may within 20 days from the day of receipt of the decision of the Authority obligating them to cease the use of advertising or having imposed a fine, may appeal against the decision in court according to the procedure established by the Law on Administrative procedures.
What are the contractual consequences of an administrative order or a judgement relating to an unfair commercial practice on an individual transaction? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices and the Law on Advertising do not contain provisions on this matter. However, according to the provisions of Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, there is a possibility to claim the contract void or claim damages caused by infringement of the party to the contract. The administrative order might serve as legitimate and sound evidence of illicit actions in this case.
How can consumers get redress/compensation (e.g. through collective actions)? The procedure determining how consumers can get a redress/compensation is not regulated by The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices or the Law on Advertising. The Law on Advertising just contains a provision stating that persons whose rights and law-protected interests have need violated while using the advertising prohibited by this law may appeal in court with a claim on compensation of the damage inflicted. Consequently, the provisions of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania are applicable, according to which consumers can get a redress/compensation by both, stand-alone or collective actions.
Can the administrative authorities or the courts require the publication of their decisions? The Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-consumer Commercial Practices and the Law on Advertising do not contain provisions regarding this matter. However, according to the Work Regulation of the Authority, all its decisions concerning the Law on Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-consumer Commercial Practices (resolution parts) are announced on the website of the Authority and/or published in the annex “Information announcements” of the official journal „Valstybės žinios“. According to the Work Regulation of the Competition Council, all its decisions are announced on its website. In certain cases (established in the Law on Competition), the resolution part of the decision is published in the annex “Information announcements” of the official journal „Valstybės žinios“.
IV. OTHER TYPES OF ENFORCEMENT
Are there any self-regulatory enforcement systems in your jurisdiction that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive? Lithuania has several self-regulatory enforcement systems. Most of them are based on the implementation of the codes of conduct. The most relevant example is the Advertisement Bureau of Lithuania (“ABL”) (in Lithuanian: “Lietuvos reklamos biuras”). The ABL is a self-regulatory and independent organization. Its aim is to develop fair and legitimate advertising practices in Lithuania according to the code of advertising ethics. The Authority and the Competition Council cooperate with the ABL in solving various issues concerning advertising. Besides, the ABL has established an Arbitrary Commission which has an exclusive right to adopt decisions according to the complaints received by the ABL. Another example of self-regulatory body is the Association of Lithuanian Trade Enterprises (“ALTE”) (in Lithuanian: “Lietuvos preybos įmonių asociacija”) that unites almost forty Lithuanian and foreign capital retail and wholesale trade companies, registered in the country. ALTE has been recognized as an influential organization, developing the trade business of the country. The representatives of the Association are involved in the work groups of the Seimas, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, and other state institutions of the Republic of Lithuania, working out the suggestions for the legal acts in connection with business regulation, discussing and commenting the newly framed or improved draft legal acts. The Authority cooperates with the ABL in solving various issues concerning business practises.
Are there any mediating services that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive (e.g., an ombudsman)? In Lithuania there are no mediating services dealing with aspects of the UCP Directive.