Enforcement fiche for Slovakia
|I. ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT|
|Which administrative mechanisms are available to enforce the UCP Directive?||
In Slovakia, the UCP Directive is implemented into Act No. 250/2007 Coll. on consumer protection, as amended ("Consumer Protection Act"). The compliance with the Consumer Protection Act is ensured by so-called supervisory bodies. These bodies are either special bodies to whom a special field of consumer protection is assigned (e.g. the Slovak Postal Regulation Office supervises the protection of consumers in postal services) or provided the competence of the supervisory body cannot be determined, the supervisory body will be the Slovak Commercial Inspectorate ("SCI"). The SCI is a budgetary organisation of the Slovak Ministry of Economy. It is responsible for controlling the sale of products and provision of services to the consumers and handles the complaints of the consumers.
|Who can file administrative complaints?||
According to Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, every consumer has the right to lodge a complaint to the supervisory bodies.
|Do any specific procedural requirements apply to filing administrative complaints?||
No, the Consumer Protection Act does not provide for any specific procedural requirements on lodging of complaints.
|Do the administrative authorities have an obligation to investigate the complaint?||
The Consumer Protection Act stipulates that the supervising (administrative) authority is obliged to supervise the safety of the goods and services and for these purposes, it shall investigate the complaints of the consumers.
|Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the competent authorities?||
There are certain evidence (notification) obligations of the traders towards the competent authorities, specifically with respect to the tying trade. The trader is obliged to prove to the supervising authority that it sells specific goods and provide specific services also individually (so these are not considered to be sold/provided by a tying manner) and that the tying trade is conditioned by technical inability of the individual trade or provision of services.
|II. ENFORCEMENT THROUGH COURT ACTION|
|Which court actions are available to enforce the UCP Directive?||
The consumers and associations established for the protection of consumers ("Associations")may lodge a civil claim to the respective court on basis of which they may claim that their civil rights assigned to them as consumers have been breached. The Consumer Protection Act does not stipulate for specific court actions which might be available to enforce the consumers protection. However, the consumers have all available means of civil law to achieve the protection of their rights, e.g. general court action (also collective), damage compensation claim, application for preliminary measure.
|Who can start a court action?||
According to Section 3 (5) of the Consumer Protection Act a consumer may solicit protection of his rights in court against infringement of rights and liabilities stipulated by the Consumer Protection Act for the purposes of consumer protection. Also Associations may make claim against a contravener in order to restrain the contravener from his illegal actions and eliminate the illegal situation.
It shall be noted that the Associations may demand this restrain also in case the conduct of the contravener harms the interests of consumers which do not represent a single sum of interests of specific consumers harmed by breach of consumersʼ rights, however the conduct of the contravener affects so called collective interests of consumer.
|Can court actions be initiated by competitors?||
Yes, in general court actions may be initiated by anyone. However, the applicant (plaintiff) has to have the active legitimation, i.e. he has to bear a legal right which was breached by the counterparty (defendant). The Consumer Protection Act only convers the right of the consumers and of the associations established for the purposes of consumer protection to initiate the court actions.
|Can the case be handled through an accelerated procedure?||
The Consumer Protection Act does not provide for specific means which could be utilised in order to speed up the court actions. The consumers would be entitled to lodge so-called application for order to perform (Section 174b of Act No. 99/1963 Coll. Civil Procedure Act). This instrument shall serve for a quicker issuance of judgements in cases where the claimant enforces his due right as explained in his application. However, the Consumer Protection Act stipulates that the supervising body is entitled to issue a preliminary measure. The supervisory body may by means of preliminary measure prohibit marketing of a product which is not safe or cessation of an unfair commercial practice.
|Are there any specific requirements regarding the provision of evidence to the court?||
No, there are no special requirements stipulated for consumers when lodging court actions in order to enforce their consumers rights. Thus, the general provisions of the Civil Procedure Act on evidence will apply. In general, the parties are obliged to adduce evidence to uphold their claims. The court will decide which from the suggested evidence it will apply, it may also apply evidence not proposed by the parties, provided it considers that their application will be necessary for the matter decision.
|What are the possible civil sanctions and remedies for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
Upon filing of court action by the consumer with competent civil court, the court can award damages for the infringement of consumer’s rights and the reimbursement of the outlays incurred to the consumer with respect to court proceedings. This stems also from the Consumer Protection Act (Section 3 (5)) according to which a person successfully asserting infringement of rights or liabilities in court has the right to commensurate financial redress from the person capable of inflicting damage against the consumer by infringement of rights or liabilities stipulated by Consumer Protection Act and special rules.
|What are the possible criminal sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
Pursuant to Section 269a of Act No. 300/2005 Coll. Criminal Code, as amended, who infringes the rights of the consumer by using unfair commercial practices which are deemed unfair by special regulation on consumer protection in spite of being convicted for the above mentioned offence or released from the execution of the sentence of imprisonment imposed for such a criminal offence within the last 24 months, or in spite of being punished for a similar criminal offence in the last 24 months, shall be punished by imprisonment from six months up to three years. The same applies to the person who instructs other person to commit the criminal offence described above.
|What are the possible administrative sanctions for the infringement of the UCP provisions?||
According to Section 23 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act, the infringements of consumer’s rights by violating the respective act or special regulation on consumer protection presents an offence. The administrative sanctions for such offences include fines imposed by administrative authorities ranging up to 331,94 EUR. Furthermore, Section 24 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act lays down maximum fine of 66.387,84 EUR (for repeated infringement within 12 months, maximum fine of 165.969,59 EUR) to be imposed by supervision authorities on the producer, seller, importer or supplier for the infringement of obligations stipulated by the Consumer Protection Act. In case the defected product caused health injury or in case the health injury was caused by defected provision of a service, the supervision authority shall impose maximum fine of 331.939,19 EUR to be imposed on the producer, seller, importer or supplier. However, the fine cannot be imposed on person who proves that the defect was not to be prevented by using best possible effort.
|What are the contractual consequences of an administrative order or a judgement relating to an unfair commercial practice on an individual transaction?||
As it was mentioned above, the supervisory body may issue a preliminary measure and to order the cessation of an unfair commercial practice. Thus as a result the unfair commercial practice shall be ceased. Furthermore, the SCI may abolish the practice or impose other instructions in this respect. However, the Commercial Practices Act does not stipulate what shall happen with the transaction itself. We assume that the administrative order of the respective supervisory body shall not affect the contractual relationship of the consumer and seller. As regards the contractual relationship itself between the consumer and seller in case of unfair commercial practice, the consumer may claim in his court action that due to the unfair commercial practice the conclusion of the contractual relationship with the seller is invalid, since he has concluded it in an error. Thus the consequence of such claim would be that the court may order that the transaction is invalid.
|How can consumers get redress/compensation (e.g. through collective actions)?||
The consumers may get redress or compensation by a civil action lodging to the respective court and alleging that the breach of their consumers rights have caused them damage, requesting so damage compensation. This stems also from Section 3 (5) of the Consumer Protection Act which stipulates that a person successfully asserting infringement of rights or liabilities stipulated by this Act and special rules in court has the right to commensurate financial redress from the person capable of inflicting damage against the consumer by infringement of rights or liabilities stipulated by this Act and special rules. Furthermore, the consumers are also entitled to lodge a collective action through an association or also collectively. By means of an action, the consumers may achieve that the vendor will cease from the breaching of consumers rights, or that the contractual relationship between the vendor and the consumer will be terminated.
|Can the administrative authorities or the courts require the publication of their decisions?||
According to Section 3 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act, the consumer's right to information is ensured by the liability of the public body to publish a legally binding decision in matters concerning the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, as well as other special regulations arranging the rights of consumers. Furthermore, pursuant to Section 155 (4) of the Civil Procedure Act, the court may in its judgment grant the consumer, i.e. to a successful plaintiff, the right to publish the judgment on the costs of the unsuccessful party.
|IV. OTHER TYPES OF ENFORCEMENT|
|Are there any self-regulatory enforcement systems in your jurisdiction that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive?||
Section 26a of the Consumer Protection Act provides for the establishment of a committee for assessment of terms and conditions in consumer agreements and unfair business practices of sellers ("Committee"). The Committee shall assess general terms and conditions of sellers on the basis of complaints or on the basis of its own initiative. Upon request, the seller shall send the general terms and conditions to the Committee, which he negotiates with the consumers, at that in one execution. The Committee is entitled to demand general terms and conditions from the seller, which he negotiates with the consumer, and the seller is obliged to accord this request. In case of revealing violation of law or other generally binding legal regulation, the Committee is entitled to give a rise to action to respective state bodies and to contact the Associations in order to set up claims at the respective state body.
|Are there any mediating services that deal with aspects of the UCP Directive (e.g., an ombudsman)?||
In Slovakia, the consumer is in general entitled to make use of the institution of mediation, however according to our information the consumers do not utilise mediation services. As regards ombudsmans, the Slovak Bank Association established a function of so-called bank ombudsman with the aim of settling disputes between banks and consumers.