The Act on Extrajudicial Settlement of Consumer Disputes of 23 September 2016 (Polish: ustawa o pozasądowym rozwiązywaniu sporów konsumenckich) recently came into force on 10 January 2017. The Act is of key importance to all companies whose clients are consumers, particularly for shop owners (both retail and online) as it introduces detailed rules on organisation and litigation of disputes between businesses and consumers before arbitration courts.
Certain provisions of the Act directly affect how consumer complaints are handled.
According to the new law:
- Companies are required to answer a complaint within 30 days of its receipt. Failure to do so will be deemed as acceptance of the complaint. The answer must be prepared "on paper or another permanent carrier" (such as an email) – communication via telephone, e.g., will not be acceptable
- If the dispute is not resolved through the complaint procedure (e.g., as it was rejected by the company), the company is obliged to submit to the consumer – on paper or other permanent carrier – a statement which would constitute either: (1) agreement to continue the dispute out-of-court (in arbitration), (2) information that the company intends to bring the case before arbitration, or (3) a statement of non-acceptance of such form of litigation. If the company remains silent and fails to submit such declaration, this is understood as an acceptance to participate in arbitration.
Therefore, the Act introduces several new key instruments which will have a major impact on handling consumer complaints.