Infolinia Grupy PFR: 800 800 120
Unfair competition



1. Unfair Competition Act

The Unfair Competition Act of 16 April 1993 defines as an unlawful act anything that violates or threatens  the interests of another entrepreneur or a client. The Act lists examples of actions constituting acts of unfair competition:

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2. Misleading designation of an enterprise

This includes naming an enterprise with the intent to mislead clients as to its identity, e.g. using another enterprise’s company name or acronym of company's name.

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2.1 Misleading designation of products or services

Labelling products or services shall be considered an act of unfair competition, if it may be misleading for a client as to the key attributes of these products or services, such as their origin, quantity, quality, components, usage, and the risks involved in using them. Giving a product or service a false or misleading geographical designation or protected designation of place of origin is also an act of unfair competition.

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2.2 Infringement of a business's confidential information

Confidential information is company information of commercial value, not revealed to the public (technical, technological, organisational, know-how etc.), and which a business has taken necessary steps to keep confidential. The following are to be considered acts of unfair competition: transferring, revealing, using or purchasing from an unauthorised person another business’s confidential information.

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2.3 Inciting to non-performance of an agreement or personnel duties

Inciting an entrepreneur’s employee to non-performance, or improper performance of duties, or an entrepreneur’s client to termination or non-performance of an agreement with that entrepreneur, so as to obtain profit or to harm that entrepreneur, is considered an act of unfair competition.

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2.4 Counterfeiting

Imitating an existing product constitutes an act of unfair competition, if it misleads a client as to the identity of a product or its producer. Imitating a product’s functional attributes is allowed, unless it involves imitating a product’s characteristic form, thus misleading the client as to the identity of that product or its producer.

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2.5 Distributing unfair information

Distributing unfair or misleading information about one's own, or someone else’s, business is an act of unfair competition if it is aimed at gaining benefits or causing losses.

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2.6 Impeding market entry

The Act describes actions deemed to impede the entry of other businesses into the market, as acts of unfair competition. These include selling products/services below the cost of production or purchase (dumping prices), unreasonably dissimilar treatment of clients, charging payments for accepting products, other than commercial margin of profits.

The Act also provides that making access to the market more difficult for small businesses by selling products or services in retail stores larger than 400m2 at prices below the cost of production or purchase, shall be an act of unfair competition. This excludes end-of season sales, products nearing the end of their shelf-life, and store liquidations.

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2.7 Bribing a person performing a public function

Bribing a person performing a public functions, which is also a crime, according to the provisions of the Criminal Code, constitutes an act of unfair competition.

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2.8 Stealing television signals

The distribution of television and radio programmes is subject to protection. Production, import, distribution, sale or possession, among others, of devices aimed at unlawful access to protected services (such as cable or satellite TV), if undertaken for profit, constitutes an act of unfair competition.

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2.9 Unfair advertising

According to the Act, in the area of advertising the following actions constitute acts of unfair competition, in particular:

  • advertising which violates the law, good customs or which offends against human dignity;
  • advertising that misleads the client, when this can affect the client’s decision to buy a product;
  • advertising which induces fear in clients, uses superstition or minors’ gullibility;
  • surreptitious advertising – which gives an impression of neutral information;
  • advertising that significantly interferes in privacy, e.g. burdensome importuning in public places.

Also, comparative advertising is prohibited if it violates good customs. To assure compliance with good customs, comparative advertising must satisfy a series of criteria related to its integrity and objectivity.

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2.10 Promotion

Selling products or services to clients while granting to some or all purchasers free prizes, being a product or services other than the ones which are sold, shall be considered an act of unfair competition unless the prize is a product or a service of a minor value (or sample) or is an award in a promotional lottery, organized on the basis of the provisions of the Gaming Act or in a contest, whose results do not depend on chance.

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2.11 Pyramid sale systems

Pyramid sales are defined as a system in which the purchase of products or services is offered by promising some material benefits to purchasers, in lieu of encouraging other persons to enter into same transactions. Organising such a sale system shall not be considered an act of unfair competition, if:

  • The promised material benefits come from incomes gained from sale of goods or services at prices, which may not grossly exceed a real market value of those goods and services; and
  • A person resigning from participation in the system is entitled to re-sell to the organiser all products, purchased within the preceding six months, for not less than 90% of purchase price

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2.12 Sale in discount stores under own brand

Introducing into the market through chains of discount stores of private label products, i.e. a brand owned by an owner of a chain of stores or its subsidiaries, shall be an act of unfair competition if such products constitute not less than 20% of turnover.

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3. Liability stemming from an act of unfair competition

Committing act of unfair competition may give rise to civil law liability or criminal law liability.

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3.1 Civil law liability

An entrepreneur, whose interest has been violated or threatened, due to an act of unfair competition, may request the entrepreneur who committed an act of unfair competition, to:

  • Cease prohibited activities
  • Remove the effects of those activities
  • Make a certain public declaration
  • Compensate a loss caused
  • Release unlawfully gained profits
  • Pay an appropriate amount of money for agreed public purposes - if an act of unfair competition was caused by fault.

It should be noted that the above demands (except for some cases) may also be submitted by an organisation, whose statutory purpose is protection of entrepreneurs’ interests.

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3.2 Criminal law liability

The Act introduces criminal liability for committing some of acts of unfair competition provided for in this act. Committing one of these offences (or misconducts) described in this act is made subject to a penalty or a fine, restriction of freedom and even imprisonment (up to eight years). Prosecution of offences (or misconducts) provided for in the Act on unfair competition is initiated upon a motion (request) of a harmed person.

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(Last update: April 2015)

Prepared for the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency by:

Kancelaria - Leśnodorski, Ślusarek i Wspólnicy

Autor: Maciej Ślusarek

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