Court judgements in consumer protection cases
The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection has presented the latest court judgements related to UOKiK’s decision in the scope of consumer protection.
The first judgement concerns a decision from December 2013, in which the Office recognized that Provident Polska violated consumers’ collective interests. In an agreement for loans serviced at clients’ homes, the company provided false information on total cost of such a loan and the actual annual rate of interest. Provident did not inform its clients about the amount of home service fee and the additional preparatory fee. The President of UOKiK imposed fines on the company in the amount of over PLN 12 million in total.
In November 2017, the court reduced the fines imposed by UOKiK to PLN 770,000. Both parties appealed against the judgement of the court of first instance. In November 2018, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement in which it sustained the arguments of the President of UOKiK and dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal assessed the harmfulness of the practice of not providing full information on fees charged for servicing loans at clients’ homes more severely than the court of first instance. In its opinion, consumers in a difficult financial situation, who urgently needed access to money, were particularly vulnerable to such loans because they were much more willing to accept unfavourable terms of which they learned only at the final stage of concluding a loan agreement. The Court also pointed out that the fees charged for servicing loans at clients’ homes were not proportional to the costs Provident had borne. According to the Court of Appeal, the President of UOKiK correctly calculated the amount of the fine imposed on the company.
Another judgement concerns Polkomtel’s appeal against the UOKiK decision from March 2016. The tele operator, without prior consent of prepaid phone users, ran the ‘Non-Stop’ internet service for a trial period. Upon the service provision, the company did not provide its clients with full information allowing them to make an informed decision whether to conclude an agreement or not. Notices sent to subscribers did not contain relevant information about the activated service or such information was passed incorrectly. It concerned such data as the service name, information on the way to cancel the service, and information that at the end of the free trial period clients would become paid subscribers. Furthermore, upon service activation consumers were not informed about the name of regulations in which they could find the necessary information on the service. According to the President of UOKiK, such practices could mislead consumers.
The Office stated that Polkomtel ceased to apply the contested practices and obliged the company to publish the decision on its website.
In October 2018, the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection dismissed the operator’s appeal. In the grounds for the decision, the Court pointed out that text messages sent by Polkomtel to its clients made them falsely believe that the agreement was changed. The Court shared the view of the President of UOKiK that consumers were not sufficiently informed about what they should do if they wanted to cancel the service they did not order.