Big market, big changes. E-commerce and consumer laws go hand in hand

New obligations will also be imposed on them by the European Omnibus Directive, which should come into force on May 28, and which avoid unfairly inflating prices before introducing promotions or publishing false product reviews.

– Often, entrepreneurs used tactics in the form of large promotions of several tens of percent when reducing prices or promotions such as Black Friday or Cyber ​​Monday. It turned out that some of them first gradually increased the price. If we check the price from a month ago, it would turn out that the promotion is only a few percent. From now on, the directive will require that next to this reduced price, the lowest price of the last 30 days is displayed each time – says Newseria Biznes agency Marcin Trepka, lawyer and partner at Baker McKenzie, expert in the Management of Competition and Consumer Protection.

As he indicates, an important change will also apply to the publication of opinions on the products and services purchased. Research conducted for UOKiK showed that 93 percent. of consumers are suggested by product opinion before making a purchase, and 86 percent. draws attention to the seller’s opinion. It is therefore an important factor when making purchasing decisions. – From now on, the trader will have the obligation to ensure that the opinions of consumers on the seller or his product come from the people who have actually bought or used the product. If he does not, he will not be able to use them or he will be liable for the use of unfair commercial practices – emphasizes Trepka.

Under the EU directive, online platforms will also be required to provide consumers with clear information about the obligations of the seller and the platform itself, including in terms of returns or complaints.

– Consumers often had no idea that when they bought goods through a shopping platform, they were buying them on the platform, from an entrepreneur or from another consumer. This, of course, had certain consequences: the consumer did not know who to complain to, did not know whether he had the right to withdraw from the contract – explains Marcin Trepka. – Another obligation will be to inform why the consumer using the search engine or platform sees the goods or offers in a specific order. The EU legislator has noticed that consumers most often follow this and choose the first articles, so that entrepreneurs often favor their own products or services via the platform at the expense of offers from other sellers. We already had a high-profile Google case and over €2 billion in fines for self-preference, and in Poland there is currently a case against Allegro for the exact same case.

It is important to note that Internet companies are subject to severe financial penalties for violations of consumer law, and not only the company, but also the management can be held liable.

– It’s up to 10 percent. last year’s turnover and penalties for managers up to 2 million PLN, and in the case of entrepreneurs operating in the financial market, even up to 5 million PLN. Interestingly, these penalties are already on the decline. The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposes them for the moment for practices such as financial pyramids, but we can already see that it is also considering at least bringing proceedings against the directors for other practices, in particular not to inform or mislead consumers – says Marcin Trepka.

POLISH MARKET

Online commerce has exploded in recent years, and the pandemic has only intensified this trend. According to PwC calculations, in 2020, online sales in Poland increased by 35%, and the e-commerce channel reached 14%. share of the value of retail sales and was worth about PLN 100 billion (report “Outlook of the e-commerce market in Poland” 2021). Estimates assume that by 2026, the gross value of the Polish e-commerce market, which operates around 150,000 businesses, will already reach PLN 162 billion, an average annual growth of 12%.

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