31UOKiK will have authority to impose a fine of up to PLN 5 mln on a manager of a financial sector company who deliberately violated collective consumer interests or who was aware of the fact that the company in question applies proscribed contract clauses. In another development, the KNF’s (Polish Financial Supervision Authority’s) staff has been beefed up.

Most provisions of what is broadly referred to as the KNF Act (i.e. the legislative Act of 9 November 2018 regarding amendment of certain acts in connection with increasing supervision over the financial market and protection of financial market investors) are slated to come into force as of 1 January 2019. Some, however, are already in force – the most controversial ones, regarding state take-over of underperforming banks, came into force on 1 December, and the ones concerning composition of the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) and rights of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) – on 15 December. (...)

New powers for UOKiK

Moreover, as of Saturday, 15 December, the President of UOKiK may impose financial penalties on members of an enterprise’s management if he finds that such individual has deliberately contributed to a violation of collective consumer interests or to use of proscribed contract clauses. The maximum penalty for a member of management is PLN 2 mln, and for mangers at financial sector companies – PLN 5 mln. Financial penalties on natural persons may be imposed in the same decision in which UOKiK imposes a penalty on the enterprise. “Until now, such a possibility extended [to UOKiK] only in the event of violation of the competition protection rules, although – as of yet – the President of UOKiK has not availed himself of this possibility”, notes Bernadeta Kasztelan-Świetlik, attorney, partner at GESSEL.

The amounts of any penalties collected from the financial sector will be earmarked for the newly established Financial Education Fund, which is intended to foster financial awareness among Poles and pursue educational measures in this regard.

“New powers of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection mark another step in combating abuses in the financial market. We will use the new tools, because it is our experience that it is the decisions and the supervision of managerial cadres which have a great impact on consumer rights violations by companies. An example would be comprised in pressure brought to bear on sales staff to reel in as many customers as possible, even if this entails misguiding them”, says Marek Niechciał.

The full article (in Polish) is available at www.prawo.pl