Enforcement fiche for Latvia
|I. ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT|
|Which administrative mechanisms are available to enforce the UCP Directive?||
The UCP Directive has been implemented mainly through the Unfair Commercial Practices Prohibition Law (UCPPL), however certain aspects are also covered by the Advertising Law.
|Who can file administrative complaints?||
In accordance with Unfair Commercial Practices Prohibition law, article 15, and Advertising law, article 14, any person may file an administrative complaint with the competent authority and ask to take necessary actions to terminate violations of law.
|Do any specific procedural requirements apply to filing administrative complaints?||
No specific procedural requirements apply. The application must comply with general document drafting requirements and provide at least the following - the name and address of the person who files it, registration number for legal entities, describe the nature of complaint and provide other information so that the competent authority may understand the action sought and activity complained about. The application must be signed. There are no standard complaint forms approved.
|Do the administrative authorities have an obligation to investigate the complaint?||
Yes, if a complaint has been filed, the competent authority must review it and respond to it. If a preliminary assessment of the complaint shows that the commercial practice complained about is contrary to law and has caused or could have caused significant harm to collective interests of consumers, the authority should initiate an administrative case and perform a thorough investigation. If the competent authority does not find a violation and a threat to collective interests, it may not initiate an administrative case, but still should inform the complaining party of its decision. The authority, therefore, is obliged to respond to any application and make at least a preliminary assessment (as noted before), however, not always obliged to initiate administrative cases.
|Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities?||
No specific requirements apply for provision of evidence by complaining party. The obligation to perform investigation and gather evidence on which the decision is based lies with the authority. Nevertheless, the more information (evidence) is provided to the authority proving the correctness of the claim, the easier and faster the authority will be able to adopt its decision. The authorities are subject to limited financial and administrative resources; therefore not all investigations can be carried out to extent the applicant would desire.
During investigations performed by authority, the authority is entitled to approach the accused company and request information about its commercial practices. If the company does not provide the requested information or provides incomplete information, the authority is entitled to consider that the information utilized in commercial practice is imprecise or false. Thus, formally the obligation to prove that the practice is unfair lies with the authority, nevertheless, the law contains a presumption that in cases where the company does not cooperate and manage to prove otherwise, the evidence is interpreted in favour of the authority.
|II. ENFORCEMENT THROUGH COURT ACTION|
|Which court actions are available to enforce the UCP Directive?||
Before amendments to the Latvian Administrative Violations Code (LAVC) in 2012 where the applicant was not satisfied with the decision adopted by the authority, the applicant could appeal the decision in administrative courts under administrative procedure. From 1 July 2012 the applicant is no longer obliged to appeal imposed fines and other sanctions under LAVC in administrative courts under administrative procedure but in courts of general jurisdiction according to the procedure established in LAVC. Other obligations imposed on the applicant outside the scope of the administrative violation prescribed in LAVC must be appealed as before. Though, it is worth mentioning that amendments to UCPPL that propose to once again shift appeals of unfair commercial practice decisions to administrative courts to be reviewed under administrative procedure are currently being viewed in the Latvian parliament (Saeima) and have passed the first out of three readings.
The applicant, irrespective of proceedings initiated with the authority, may file a civil claim in court seeking damages and termination of unfair commercial practices.
|Who can start a court action?||
Any person affected by the unfair commercial practice. The applicant, however, must prove that it has been affected and therefore has legitimate interest to initiate such claim.
|Can court actions be initiated by competitors?||
|Can the case be handled through an accelerated procedure?||
Accelerated procedure does not apply to substantial review of unfair commercial practices claims.
Preliminary settlements are available through competent authorities. These are interim measures that the authority imposes against the trader while the authority finishes the review of the case and adopts its final decision. Such interim measures will be prohibition to engage in certain commercial practice. The affected trader may appeal the interim measure in the District Court of Administrative Cases within 10 days from their coming into effect and the court must review such appeal in 14 days. Submission of the appeal does not render the interim measure ineffective and the court decision is final and cannot be appealed.
|Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the court?||
Yes, the claimant must support its claims in court with appropriate evidence. The claimant may ask the court to request evidence from other parties if the claimant does not possess them.
|What are the possible civil sanctions and remedies for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
Through civil proceedings the claimant may seek damages and request court to order termination of the illegal activities.
|What are the possible criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
Criminal liability arises only for repeated violation of unfair commercial practices prohibition law. The following sanctions may be imposed in such case 1) imprisonment up to two years or forced labour; 2) fine up to 80 minimum wages, with or without ban on rights to engage in commercial activities for period from two to five years. Current minimum wage in Latvia is LVL 200.
|What are the possible administrative sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
The administrative penalty for violation of Unfair Commercial Practices Prohibition Law may reach LVL 10 000 (approximately EUR 14 000). The court or competent authority may also impose specific legal obligations, including termination of the practice in question, impose recall or publication of corrective statement or other sanctions noted in the Unfair Commercial Practices Prohibition Law. Please note that the amendments currently being reviewed in the Latvian parliament propose to increase the maximum penalty to LVL 100 000 (approximately EUR 140 000). Furthermore, rights of an authority to cancel the use of a top level “.lv” domain and cease the commercial activity of an infringer which refuses to comply with a decision of the authority and may create or has created a substantial harm to collective interests of consumer are also envisaged under these amendments.
|What are the contractual consequences of an administrative order or a judgement relating to an unfair commercial practice on an individual transaction?||
If the administrative order or judgement finds an infringement of unfair commercial practices prohibition, and the consumer has sought revocation of the contract, depending on the seriousness of the violation, the court or competent authority may declare that the contract in question is void. In such cases principle of restitution applies. The consumer, however, must prove that the unfair practice in question lead him/her to enter into such contract and otherwise he/she would not have taken that decision.
|How can consumers get redress/compensation (e.g. through collective actions)?||
Compensation of damages is possible through civil claims in court against the infringer. It is possible to file either individual or collective claims.
|Can the administrative authorities or the courts require the publication of their decisions?||
|IV. OTHER TYPES OF ENFORCEMENT|
|Are there any self-regulatory enforcement systems in your jurisdiction that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive?||
Some self-regulatory enforcement systems exist with respect to advertising practices. For example, pharmaceuticals advertising ethics committee has been set up within the trade association of the pharmaceuticals manufacturers. Similarly Latvian Advertising association has an ethics committee set up which reviews any form of advertising. However, irrespective of the decisions of these committees, the competent authorities are still free to decide on these cases if the self-regulatory system has not ensured satisfactory the termination of the violation.
|Are there any mediating services that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive (e.g., an ombudsman)?||
No specific bodies or services available, however the complaining party and the alleged offender are free to reach a settlement through any means they find appropriate.