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Omnibus directive – what is it and when does it come into effect?

The Omnibus Directive is supposed to be a new way to combat dishonest sellers who raise product prices under the guise of promotions or leave them at similar levels. Many consumers rightly complain about fake discounts that have no coverage in reality.

When the new law, incorporating the provisions of the directive, comes into force, sellers will have a number of new obligations. One of them will be the need to reliably report product price changes up to 30 days back. However, this is not the end of the changes. What will be the real effects of implementing the EU document into Polish law?
Read our guide to find out:

What is the Omnibus Directive and what obligations does it introduce?

The online bookstore has Wojciech Chmielarz’s latest book on offer, priced at PLN 34.50. Currently, the product card shows a crossed-out amount of PLN 44.90 (this is the suggested retail price of the product). A consumer who visits the bookstore’s website for the first time doesn’t know that last week the book could be purchased at the price of PLN 29.90. After the introduction of the Omnibus directive, the bookstore will be obliged to put the relevant information on the product page so that customers can easily compare prices.

Consumers should therefore be clearly informed when the price offered to them has been individually adjusted on the basis of automated decision-making, so that they can take potential risks into account when making a purchase decision.

What’s more, it will be the vendor’s responsibility to reliably inform customers about how feedback will be processed, in particular:

  • Whether the store posts all reviews or performs a selection;
  • Whether the reviews posted in the store are sponsored;
  • Whether the posted opinions are influenced by contractual relations with the entrepreneur.

The provisions of the Omnibus Directive also include a place for prohibiting the posting of false opinions and recommendations. These include:

  • social media likes;
  • Commissioning the creation and posting of reviews with a view to promoting their own products;
  • manipulating consumer reviews and recommendations (for example, through the aforementioned selection and removal of negative reviews);
  • The full postal address at which it conducts business;
  • phone number;
  • email address;
  • another means of online communication that guarantees the possibility of preserving the consumer’s written correspondence with the trader;
  • The full postal address and details identifying the entrepreneur on whose behalf it is acting (if applicable).

The purpose of this change is to make it easier for consumers to get in touch with the seller.

What concerns are raised by the introduction of the directive?

  1. Each announcement of a price reduction shall state the previous price charged by the operator for a specified period before the price reduction was applied.
  2. Previous price means the lowest price charged by the operator during the period, which cannot be less than 30 days before the price reduction is applied.
  3. Member states may make other provisions for goods that spoil quickly or have a short shelf life.

The doubts that were raised already at the initial stages of work on the introduction of the directive into the Polish legal order concerned mainly how to understand “announcement of a price reduction” and what exactly is an “earlier price”. There were also voices indicating that the term “business entity” itself is not precise enough.

What’s more, in the proposal of the Polish Law on Amendments to the Law on Consumer Rights and Certain Other Laws, the provisions intended to implement the Omnibus Directive were placed in the section devoted to provisions on goods and services. This raises further problems, since the provisions of Directive 98/6/EC apply only to goods.

While there is no doubt that the new rules will apply to all sellers (not only those trading online, but also those conducting traditional or catalog sales), what remains to be resolved is the need to comply with the new rules for marketplaces, price comparison sites and sales intermediaries – that is, entities that are not responsible for the price of the product.

When will the new regulations come into effect?

The topic of the European Parliament and Council (EU) Directive 2019/2161, most commonly referred to as the Omnibus Directive, first heated up the media in late 2019, when the document was passed at the European level. Now, three years after the EP adopted the directive, the law implementing the tenets of the Omnibus Directive into Polish law appears to be on the final straight.

The Law on Amendments to the Law on Consumer Rights and Certain Other Laws was already passed (almost unanimously) on October 27, 2022, after which it was presented to the Senate and the President. The upper house of parliament has already proposed its amendments – the document has now been referred to the Committee on Economy and Development. However, there are many indications that this is almost the final straight and that radical changes to the law are not expected.

Although the original deadline for the implementation of changes related to the Omnibus Directive passed at the end of May 2022, we will still have to wait for the Polish government to fulfill its commitment. However, this should not happen later than the first quarter of 2023.

What will be the effects of the Omnibus Directive?

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