When launching a service in a new jurisdiction, it is advisable to double-check compliance with consumer protection rules. Some countries might have a more stringent approach to certain issues than others. This is exactly the case in Poland. The local competition authority (UOKiK) sees consumer protection as a priority, and does not shy away from enforcing the law in cases where – in its opinion – contracting terms do not live up to the expected standard.
Last month, UOKiK brought charges against PayPal, saying that its terms of service for consumers contain some prohibited contractual clauses regarding a list of banned actions, a list of potential sanctions, and a ban on making use of a blocked or suspended account. In the view of UOKiK, the list of banned actions is too vague and does not include examples.
As a result, the company allegedly retains the right to decide whether a given action falls under the list or not. What is more, UOKiK is concerned that being open-ended, the list of possible sanctions might hinder consumers in determining what sanctions the company might apply.
This case reminds us that precision is crucial when drafting contracts and terms of service for consumers. This is no easy task, as formulating finite lists might in turn lead to deadlocks, as some situations might not be foreseeable. In any case, it is not advisable to simply translate the wording from an original document used outside Poland or the EU. More often than not, some adaptations and changes will be required to meet local consumer protection standards. It might be essential to consult a local legal professional familiar with UOKiK’s practice in this area.
Thus, in summary, terms of service need to be precise and unequivocal. The use of general statements, though tempting at times in order to safeguard the company’s interest, is not recommended, especially when access to a service or liability of the user is regulated in the terms of service.