UOKiK looks into law firms
President of Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), Tomasz Chróstny, has initiated investigation procedure against 15 law firms. According to the information held by UOKIK, there might be irregularities on the market of legal aid services that are committed by law firms. Worrying complaints are related to i.a. lack of possibility of estimating remuneration of a law firm, reserving all the benefits obtained for the consumer for the benefit of the law firm.
Investigation procedure was instigated on 20 July and covers 15 law firms from all around Poland. Its aim is in particular to verify conditions on which persons with a mortgage loan indexed or denominated to a foreign currency, a unit-linked life insurance agreement as well as corporate obligations of GetBack conclude agreements with law firms.
According to the information held by the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection, the problem may lie in not transparent rules for determining remuneration and lack of a determined maximum level of costs, which may make it more difficult to estimate the price of the activities taken. Reservation of all the benefits obtained for the customer for the benefit of law firm also raises doubts if the court cancels or “de-franc” a loan agreement. Moreover, law firms may exclude their liability for the customer’s failure to provide documents even if the law firm did not make such a request and they limit it up to the amount of the policy held only. Furthermore, borrowers may also be subject to a confidentiality clause of up to 10 years.
“In relation to worrying information received by UOKIK, we are verifying under investigation procedure a model of operations applied by law firms representing consumers. In particular, we wish to determine whether agreements may contain prohibited clauses or violate collective consumer interests. There is no doubt that law firms are professional entities providing legal aid in difficult court battles against banks involving high amounts of money. Nevertheless, law firms may not take advantage of their position to the detriment of consumers. We have the right to require that professionals act in a professional manner so that the interest of the law firm’s client is always the highest priority, not the interest of the law firm itself”, says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.
Pursuant to the Act on Competition And Consumer Protection, if the evidence collected in the course of investigation procedure raises any reservations, the President of UOKiK may instigate proceedings related to violation of collective consumer interests or application of prohibited clauses.
Proceedings in a similar case related to insurance claim law firms is in progress as well.