Product safety and market supervision
The mandate of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) includes not only combating infringements of the collective interests of consumers and overseeing proper competition on the market. As the watchdog for compliance with consumers’ rights, the office also monitors products offered to consumers in terms of compliance with basic requirements and exercises oversight of the national product safety system. UOKiK, with the help of the Trade Inspectorate, monitors the market for non-food products and agri-food items in terms of commercial quality and eliminates threats they may pose to human life and health. The monitoring system includes not only processing complaints from consumers and notifications of threats posed by products filed by manufacturers and distributors, but also conducts inspections of products and the activity of undertakings by the Trade Inspectorate. We can expect to see stepped-up initiatives by UOKiK and other authorities in this area in 2017.
Activity of authorities in the area of product safety
The number of inspections shows the seriousness of product safety. In 2015, at the request of UOKiK, trade inspectors conducted 15,825 inspections products including knitwear, toys, beds, garden furniture, and children’s eating utensils.
In addition to the Trade Inspectorate, businesses can be subject to inspections by other authorities as part of the product safety system, to verify compliance with basic requirements set out in regulations implementing the relevant EU directives in Polish law. In total, 6,012 inspections were conducted in 2015 in the area covered by this system, in which 16,538 different products were inspected. Depending on the product category, these inspections were conducted by such units as the State Labour Inspectorate (e.g. involving machinery and individual protective devices), the Office of Electronic Communications (e.g. electromagnetic compatibility of radio and telecommunications devices and energy-efficiency labelling of electrical devices). In 2016 the Sanitary Inspectorate conducted numerous inspections of labelling and safety of foods, particularly dietary supplements and foods for special nutritional needs.
Defective products, dangerous products
A fundamental question facing businesses in the consumer sector, is how to respond if a defective product is found, notifying consumers and other customers, suppliers and manufacturers, as well as responding to regulators following inspections or administrative proceedings that concern defective products. One reason this is so important is that all manufacturers and distributors are required to be involved in monitoring the safety of the goods they offer.
When a product is found to be defective, it exerts consequences in various areas of responsibility, under the warranty against defects or for injury caused by a dangerous product, and administrative law issues of product safety requirements. Fundamental issues are raised when a product is said to be “defective” including, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements for products, holding safety certifications, handling consumer claims, and discussing the issues with third parties in the event of recourse claims within the supply chain.