The trading ban is to be implemented in phases over a three-year period. In the first year (2018), shops will be forced to stay closed on Sundays, with two monthly exceptions: the first and the last Sunday each month. In the second year (2019), only one Sunday per month will be excluded from the ban, i.e., the last Sunday of each month. In the third year (2020), the law will allow for Sunday shopping only seven times per year. Sundays free from restriction include the two Sundays preceding Christmas, one Sunday before Easter and the last Sundays in the months of January, April, June, and August (accommodating seasonal sales).
There are more than 30 exceptions to the ban. For example, gas stations, pharmacies, bakeries, florists, stores at airports, train stations and in hotels are allowed to keep operating on Sundays. There is also an exception for shops that are operated solely by the owner/entrepreneur. In order to keep such shops open on Sundays, the owners are obliged to perform sales and related activities by themselves. In practice, this is an opportunity for smaller entrepreneurs to keep their businesses open without current statutory limits. Moreover, shopping via the internet is not restricted in any way.
Any entity violating the new restrictions risks being fined up to PLN 100,000 (approx. EUR 24,000), while repeat or malicious offenders may face a fine of up to PLN 1,000,000 (approx. EUR 240,000) or even a sentence for their representatives of uncompensated community service or the deduction of 10% - 25% of their monthly remuneration, each for a period from one month up to two years.
Some entrepreneurs see the new law as an opportunity. Many stores have extended their operating hours on trading days (even until 11 p.m.). A greater number of customers can now be seen on Friday and Saturday evenings in shopping malls and, especially, in food stores. Many stores have also developed their internet platforms for distribution of goods on Sundays (which is permitted). Orlen, the largest Polish fuel company, is expanding retail offerings available in stores located at their gas stations (which are exempt from the ban). Similarly, in Gdańsk, a shopping center which is located next to a train station has installed ticket counters and organized an information point and waiting room for travellers in order to be exempt from the trading ban.
Another idea being suggested is to change stores into showrooms on days excluded from trade and enabling customers to purchase products via the Internet and then pick them up in those showrooms.
The new law may give rise to uncertainty about existing legal relationships between lessors of space in shopping centers and their tenants, in particular with respect to rent. Article 357 (1) of the Polish Civil Code gives an arguable legal basis to claim a right to amend a lease based upon an extraordinary change in relations as a result of which performance would be excessively difficult or threaten a party with a great loss, neither of which was anticipated when the parties entered into the lease. As the law is new, we are without legal precedent at the moment. However, it is likely that it will generally be difficult for tenants to succeed with such claims.
The full effect of the trade restrictions is yet to be determined. Moreover, the law remains very controversial and is the topic of continued debate. As a result, further modifications to the law are expected to be introduced shortly.