Polish regulations on prohibited contractual provisions

April 8th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

I. The Law
The main sources of binding laws in the Republic of Poland are the Constitution of 2 April 1997, acts passed by the Parliament, ratified international treaties and regulations issued, for example, by the Prime Minister or the Council of Ministers – Polish government. Regulations are issued for the purpose of implementation of acts.

I.A. Substantive law

  • Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with later amendments.
  • Act of the Protection of Certain Consumer Rights and on the Liability for damage caused by a dangerous product – PCCR – (in Polish: ), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 31 March 2000, No. 22 , item 271.
  • Act on Protection of the Purchasers of the Right to use a building or residential unit for a specified time each year and on amendment to the Civil Code, Code of Minor Offenses,and the Law on Land and Mortgage Registers and Mortgage, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2000, No. 74, item 855.
  • Act on Specific Terms and Conditions of Consumer Sale and Amendments to the Civil Code.
  • Act of 16 February 2007 on competition and consumer protection, Journal of Laws – CCP – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie konkurencji i konsumentów), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2007, No. 50, item 331.
  • Act of 23 August 2007 on Combating Unfair Commercial Practices – CUCP – (in Polish: ustawa o przeciwdziałaniu nieuczciwym praktykom rynkowym), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 171, item 1206.

I.B. Case law
See “Polish case law on abusive clauses in B2C IT and IP contracts“.

II. Prohibited contractual provisions
Prohibited contractual provisions or “abusive clauses” are understood as provisions of the contract concluded with the consumer that were not agreed individually and in consequence shape consumer’s rights and obligations in a manner contrary to good customs and grossly violate consumer’s interests. Such provisions are not binding on the consumer, but the parties are bound by other provisions of the contract.

In accordance with the provisions of article 3853 of the Civil Code, if in doubt – it is considered that unlawful contractual provisions are those that, in particular:

  • exclude or seriously limit the liability to the consumer for failure to perform or improper performance of an obligation,
  • provide provisions, of which the consumer was unable to get acquaint with before concluding the contract,
  • impose solely on the consumer an obligation to pay a fixed sum in the case of the resignation from the conclusion or performance of the contract,
  • impose on the consumer, who has not performed the obligations or departed from the contract, the obligation to pay grossly inflated penalty or smart money,
  • exclude the jurisdiction of Polish courts or submit the matter to a Polish or foreign arbitration court, or other authority, and impose the adjudication by the court which is not locally relevant according to the Civil Code.

These are couple of examples of the so-called “gray abusive clauses”.

III. Procedure
The District Court in Warsaw, the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection decides if a given provision is prohibited and abusive. Anyone who has been or may be offered a contract containing such a clause, consumer organizations, consumer ombudsmen and the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection may bring an action before the Court. Consumers may obtain assistance from the local consumer ombudsman or one of the state-funded consumer organizations.

The clauses which have been found abusive by a final decision of the Court are entered into the Register of Prohibited Clauses that is available on the website of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection and as of this moment cannot be used in relations with consumers. The application of such clauses may be regarded as an infringement of collective consumer interests and may result in a fine of up to 10% of the trader’s revenue.