Durable medium - decisions regarding ING, Getin Noble, PKO BP
The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection is in the process of verifying the manner in which banks change the terms and conditions of their contracts with consumers, for instance, the level of fees. The Office has already issued decisions regarding 14 banks which improperly informed their customers about changes in their rates or regulations. The most recent ones concern Getin Noble Bank, ING Bank Śląski and PKO BP.
The Office checked whether the banks, in line with the law, gave the customers information about changes in the terms and conditions of contracts on the so-called durable medium. It is supposed to guarantee that the bank, after sending information to the consumer, is unable to interfere in it or to delete it and that the consumer is able to access it for a specific duration of time, for instance, also after the contract is terminated. A durable medium can be, for instance, a document saved on a CD, e-mail (if all information required by the law is contained in it) and a letter in paper form. It can also be a message sent as part of electronic banking, provided that it fulfils the statutory characteristics of a durable medium and that the bank informs the customer about such correspondence. It is also important that the customer – regardless of the types of communication available at the bank – is able to consent to the given form of contact which, at the same time, must fulfil the characteristics of a durable medium. The bank should not impose from above a single method of providing information about increases in fees chosen by itself. The form of communication must take into account the technical capabilities of the recipients, for instance, seniors, where many of them do not use computers.
Meanwhile, the banks provided information in recent years to customers about fee increases solely through their own e-banking systems. They did not fulfil the requirements of a durable medium because, for instance, the bank was able to change or delete such information. Also, it was not sure whether customers knew at all about such correspondence if, for instance, they rarely logged into the system and could have had little time to react to the changes (for instance, to question them, to terminate the contract without consequences) or even learned about them after they had come into effect.
“We obliged the banks to award compensation to aggrieved customers. They are supposed to refund them any potential overpayments and offer them some free services for a certain period of time. This might be worth taking advantage of. So, if a bank sent you a notification about our decision, do not throw it away. You will learn from it which compensation you are eligible for, what you must do to receive it and how much time you have for that”, says Marek Niechciał, the Office’s President.
Previously UOKiK has issued decisions imposing obligations on: Credit Agricole Bank Polska, Euro Bank, Bank Handlowy, Bank Ochrony Środowiska, Alior Bank, Bank Millennium, BZ WBK (now Santander Bank Polska), Deutsche Bank, Idea Bank, Pekao SA and Plus Bank. There are 4 procedures currently pending against: BGŻ BNP Paribas, BPH, mBank and Raiffeisen.