Retail and Consumer

Polish consumer watchdog has an eye on unfair complaint processes and future AI use

Published on 26th Apr 2023

Entrepreneurs should remember that the complaint procedure may not limit consumer rights

Green code on smartphone and laptop screens

The president of Poland's Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) has recently imposed a fine on a parking management company operating in the country and requested explanations from two other companies from this sector.

There have also been signals from the OCCP concerning the submission of complaints that chatbots may fall within the watchdog's focus on consumer protection.

Big fine

The fined parking management company had limited the methods of submitting complaints to consumers, allowing only two types of notifications: by website or post. However, different methods – for example, by email or in person – should also have been included.

Additionally, some consumers who submitted a complaint about the payment of an additional fee for the use of the entity's car parks were informed that, if they did not pay the indicated amount, they would have to bear the costs of debt collection and enforcement proceedings – which is far from the truth.

The company is obliged to pay a significant fine in the amount of PLN 822,850 because of the violation of collective consumer interests. These are not the only actions of the OCCP towards parking management companies.

Wider perspective

The OCCP, for some time already, has been monitoring parking management companies. Hence, the recent case is not an isolated one. Two other companies operating throughout the country received calls to change practices and regulations violating collective consumer interests. Both entrepreneurs have limited the methods of submitting complaints and providing information about the need to incur additional costs in connection with non-payment of the requested fees. In the coming months, further proceedings can be expected, not only in this industry. The OCCP is also verifying how entrepreneurs have adapted to the provisions implementing the Omnibus Directive.

Chatbot help

During a recent subcommittee meeting, the vice president of the OCCP stated that chatbots can also provide customer services in the complaint process, but there is one condition to be met: the processes will be assessed in terms of reliability.

The service provided by a chatbot should be as good as if it was carried out by a human. It was underlined that the key problem that arises on the market in connection with the service of consumers by artificial intelligence is related to its tendency to provide off-topic answers.

Osborne Clarke comment

The fined company informed that the deadline by which the complaints will be considered may be longer than 30 days, which is contrary to the provisions of the Consumer Rights Act. Until 1 January 2023, if the entrepreneur did not respond within 30 days of receiving the notification, the complaint was regarded as accepted. However, the new regulations that relate to the implementation of the Omnibus Directive have reduced this time by half to 14 days.

There are also some indications that the OCCP is working on the guidance on Omnibus Directive implementation for the Polish market. This development would be very helpful, as, for now, the guidance on the interpretation and application of article 6a of Directive 98/6/EC is the main source of knowledge in this regard in Poland.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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