Another Shield, and another set of (significant) legislative amendments by the way
On 14 April 2020, the lower chamber of Polish parliament – the Sejm – adopted the latest in a series of legislative packages intended to counteract the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Anti-Crisis Shield 3.0.
The Shield 3.0 components addressing the obvious realms of economic and societal life, such as employment law, have been amply commented upon. In between these, the legislature has slipped in provisions addressing some less likely issues – these have drawn less attention, but unfairly so, in that some of them have important implications.
New civil law grounds for invalidity of a contract
The declared goal of the Shield 3.0 framers was to modify the Polish Civil Code so as to achieve a systemic solution to the problem of usury by restricting the possibility of executing contracts pursuant to which one of the parties is subject to grossly unfavourable terms securing its performance. The new laws prescribe ex lege invalidity for a contract in which a natural person undertakes to transfer ownership title in a real property used by her as her residence in order to secure claims arising from the same, or from another, contract not directly associated with such person’s business or professional activities in three cases:
- Where the value of the residential property exceeds the value of the liability thus secured plus maximum interest for delay on this value for a period of 24 months;
- Where the value of the liabilities secured with the residential property has not been specified;
- Where execution of the contract was not preceded by assessment of the property’s market value by a certified professional.
New provisions of criminal law
Among the “anti-usury” rules, the legislature has smuggled in new provisions of the Criminal Code. He who, in consideration for provision of funds pursuant to a loan agreement or similar contract not directly associated with the person’s business or professional activities, demands payment of costs other than interest in an amount exceeding the maximum value of such costs (as defined by statute) by two times or more is liable for imprisonment from 3 months up to 5 years.
The same penalty is instituted for lenders who, in a similar context, demand repayment of interest on principal or interest for delay at two times or more the maximum statutory rate.
Amendments to the Telecommunications Law
Among its provisions affecting the regulatory environment for telecoms, Shield 3.0 obligates telecoms systems providers to modify their relationships with customers: if a telecoms provider envisages execution of contracts in document form, termination and rescission of such contract must likewise be possible in document form. Also, the provider must confirm receipt of a termination notice in document form within one business day.
On another note, Shield 3.0 shortens the term in office of the president of the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE) and changes the procedure for appointing his successor by cutting out the Senate.
Postal powers of attorney in ordinary form
Shield 3.0 provides that, while the country remains in a state of epidemic or of epidemic threat – and likewise in a situation where the general postal operator shuts down its outlets, postal powers of attorney may be granted in written form (without a postal official witnessing and/or attesting). Postal powers of attorney granted in this form will, through operation of the law, remain valid for a fixed term only, expiring automatically one month after granting.
The general idea underlying this legislative solution is to facilitate collection of mail and other dealings with the national post offices under the present exigencies associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. That said, it should be noted that the legislature has also provided for another circumstance in which this facilitation may be invoked – a situation where the post offices cease to function.
The latest iteration of the Shield legislation expands the scope of the Cooperatives Law’s provisions for remote operations of the governing bodies of a cooperative so as to include bodies other than the general meeting, the board, and the supervisory board (under the previous rules, these other bodies were not covered by the provisions enabling remote work).
Waste date base – One duty less
Shield 3.0 repealed the provisions of the legislative Act regarding waste which obligated entities maintaining paper registers of waste to input the data recorded therein into the BDO database. Moreover, Shield 3.0
changed some of the deadlines set in the legislative Act regarding waste; for instance, the deadline for filing annual reports on waste generation and disposal has been moved back from 30 June 2020 to 11 September 2020.
Used electronic equipment
The statutory deadline within which entities handling electronic waste were obligated to submit to an external audit for 2019 has been moved back from 30 April to 30 September 2020. It is tempting to speculate whether the legislature did not simply miss this detail before – in the event, the entities subject to the audit duty were to proceed as usual until the very last moment.
Deadlines in court proceedings resume
Under the newest regulations, deadlines in proceedings which have not begun to run shall now begin to run, and deadlines which had already been running but were then suspended shall resume running, 7 days after the coming into force of the new law.