Advertising law, case III ZS 4/09

January 15th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

In a resolution of February 2008, the Polish National Notarial Council allowed its members for establishing Internet websites of their notarial offices. However, the Council of the Chamber of Notaries in Warsaw in the resolution of June 2009 decided that the establishment by notaries of their individual websites or posting data on webpages other than the council’s one is prohibited advertising. The Council ordered the shutdown of such websites and notaries who would not follow the resolution were subject to disciplinary proceedings.

In the article entitled “Notariusze mogą mieć strony internetowe“, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reports that the Polish Minister of Justice who exercises the supervision over the notaries’ self-government challenged the resolution to the Supreme Court. The PMJ argued that the Act of 14 February 1991 Law on Notaries, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2002 No 42 item 369, with later changes, does not allow the councils of chambers to take such restricting resolutions and although the government has the right to set the rules for its profession, but it is executed by the National Notarial Council, and not by the council of the chamber in Warsaw, Gdańsk or in Poznań. The resolution took by the the Council of the Chamber of Notaries in Warsaw divides Polish notaries on the better who are allowed to run their websites and and the worse, which may not do it. During the court’s hearings the representatives of the Warsaw provided very interesting arguments, for instance, that the opeartion of a website in Lublin has other meaning than opearating such website in Warsaw. The council of the chamber supervises the observance by notaries of the solemnity and dignity of their profession and the Internet website is a prohibited form of advertising, which is contrary with the principles of the exercise profession.

The Supreme Court in a judgment of 14 January 2010, case file III ZS 4/09, annulled the contested decision of June 2009. The SC firmly stressed that the Law on Notaries has created only one, not many local governments, which is formed by the local chambers and the National Council, and they are not independent to each other. The resolutions of the National Council are addressed to all notaries, including Warsaw’s. The council of the chamber cannot independently determine what is a disciplinary offense, because it is included in the Code of Ethics.