Retail and Consumer

Polish consumer watchdog targets e-commerce in the entertainment industry 

Published on 22nd Mar 2023

Companies must pay attention to whether they communicate online with the consumer in a comprehensive manner

Close up view of a laptop and a cup of coffee

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) is currently one of the most active enforcement bodies in Poland.  In 2022, the OCCP issued over 950 decisions concerning the protection of competition and consumers and imposed nearly PLN 430 million in fines. The OCCP places a strong emphasis on consumer-friendly market practices, especially when it comes to entrepreneurs' websites. 

This month, the president of the OCCP has taken action against three entrepreneurs selling tickets, following concerns over the method of presenting prices on their websites without indication of all mandatory charges at the initial stages of the transaction.

Additional fees do matter

When entering these websites, consumers were informed only of minimum prices, which differed depending on the location of the seat in the audience room. On the site related to a specific event, the minimum price was still quoted. Additionally, in the explanation field marked with the letter “i” (standing for information), there was an annotation that additional fees may be charged. The amount of the obligatory service fee appeared for the first time only after selecting the category and type of ticket and the location on the room layout. 

What is crucial is that – based on the analysis of published offers – in practice, consumers had no chance of buying a ticket at a price defined as the minimum price, because there was always some sort of additional fee added to the price. Therefore, the entrepreneur’s communications can be assessed as misleading as the price to be paid was visible only at the final stage of the transaction. 

Earlier this year, the president of the OCCP also charged a major e-commerce platform in Poland for misleading offer sorting. When choosing the "from the cheapest" option, the prices did not include the "service maintenance" fee, which could result in the choice of a less profitable offer. "Sorting by price should take into account all the elements that make up the final price. Omitting a component may mislead the user", the president of OCCP commented.

Entrepreneurs should pay extra care to ensure that at each stage of reading the offer, a consumer has reliable information about the price, the OCCP president warned. This should be presented in a clear, legible and not misleading manner. Also, it should be stated gross and include all mandatory fees.

No bots allowed

What is more, there are new challenges ahead for the online ticket-selling market, including as a result of the Omnibus Directive. A ban has been introduced by the directive on the resale to consumers of tickets to cultural and sports events that have been acquired by using software such as ‘bots’, which generally are software applications running automated tasks over the Internet. 

Bots may fall under the EU Artificial Intelligence Act's definition of an "artificial intelligence system" as they can represent software that is developed with artificial intelligence techniques and approaches and can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, generate outputs such as content, predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing the environments with which they interact. 

The use of bots can have an influence on reality as it enables entrepreneurs to buy tickets in excess of the technical limits imposed by the primary ticket seller or to bypass any other technical means put in place by the primary seller to ensure the accessibility of tickets for all individuals. Entrepreneurs should be aware with these regulations in mind that it is very likely that authorities will continue to monitor the sector carefully and look for other irregularities.

Osborne Clarke comment

Designing a website is not so easy anymore, because there are many regulations shaping its content. More importantly, those obligations apply irrespective of the size of the company. The OCCP pays attention to small companies as well as to large players. Entrepreneurs should verify their websites from now on to avoid requests for explanations from the OCCP.

As the OCCP is currently focusing on issues related to presenting prices, we would like to highlight that the described practices may be perceived as dark patterns; that is, practices that use knowledge about consumers' online behavior to influence their purchasing decisions in an unfair way. 

There are many types of deceptive design patterns, but these are known under the name "hidden costs". In this case, the consumer gets to the last step of the checkout process, only to discover some unexpected charges have appeared. For example, a flower delivery page presents the final price including estimated taxes and possible delivery fees only at the checkout stage. 

Dark patterns trick consumers into specific actions, so the entrepreneurs using them can take unfair advantage. The consumer has the right to expect from the entrepreneur, however, that the service has been designed in an honest way and that the information and the services offered – for example, to enhance safety – are reliable. 

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* 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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