The risks connected with shifting the moment an agreement is concluded: why Amazon is facing fines for breaching consumer rights in Poland
The latest enforcement activities of the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) have proven yet again that UOKiK does not shy away from investigating and bringing charges against the major market players. Last month, the authority announced it was bringing charges against Amazon EU SARL.
The UOKiK’s primary concern is with some of the conditions regarding sales to consumers. According to an official press release, the placing of an order via the platform and even receiving confirmation still does not constitute entry into an agreement. In Amazon’s view, only when the item is shipped is the agreement considered concluded. UOKiK also alleges that consumers might be misled in this regard by the design of the order form on the platform, including the flashy “buy now” button, which might lead them to believe they have already purchased a product. Furthermore UOKiK is questioning claims that certain products are available (when they might be out of stock) or about delivery times (which turn out to be only estimations). The authority considers informing consumers about the exact conditions only in the T&C as insufficient.
The case is still pending. If UOKiK finds Amazon liable for breaching consumer rights, the company will face a severe fine.
The outcome of the case will be of paramount importance for any entity that runs an e-commerce business in Poland. Slightly shifting the time of conclusion of a contract has often been used as a trick to avoid trouble when a company was not able to monitor in real time whether it still has a certain commodity in stock. Order confirmation is normally recognised in T&C as the moment of conclusion. The way consumers are informed about this issue seems to be very important to UOKiK too. As regards the availability of products, the authority seems to expect more from professional market players than just estimations. It is for the sellers to find a way to appropriately convey the message to the consumers that some items might not be in stock after all.
The bar for consumer rights compliance in Poland has always been rather high, and therefore it is recommended to consult a local legal professional to make sure that terms and conditions do not pose a risk of fines from the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.