A few days ago, the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed a fine of over EUR 1.1 million on one of the largest shopping platforms in Poland for violating the consumers' collective interests.
The proceeding against the Polish website and platform Vinted was initiated as a result of complaints from its users through which consumers can buy or sell things, mainly second-hand clothes and accessories. As a result of the inspection, the Office informed that it found that by failing to provide transparent information, VINTED infringed the collective interests of consumers and may have contributed to their financial losses. The company is currently being inspected also by the CPC (Consumer Protection Cooperation Network) - a network of European countries' authorities, in which the Polish Office participates. The proceeding against Vinted.pl was initiated in September 2021 and two allegations were brought against it.
Failure to inform the sellers about additional conditions on identity verification.
The first allegation concerned the sellers - they were not informed that access to the money earned from the sale of items may involve additional conditions related to identity verification. The Office points out that if the sellers had known that refusing to provide the requested documents, which contain a lot of detailed and sensitive information, would result in losing the money earned, they could have sought another sales opportunity.
Indeed, if a consumer failed to provide an identity card, passport, driving licence or bank statement at the request of the payment service provider, the company could have blocked the money from the sale. The Office found that the company did not adequately inform the consumer that the withdrawal of funds could be subject to proof of identity - the consumer did not learn about it neither from the platform's regulations nor at the stage of setting up the e-wallet, in which funds from conducted transactions are accumulated. The regulations of the service indicated only that the money from the e-wallet could be transferred to the consumer's bank account at any time. In the opinion of the Office the message about the need to verify identity came too late - after the transaction had already taken place and it did not specify what requirements should be met by submitted documents (e.g. scans with some data blacked out or bank statements without bank logo were rejected).
Notification of other authorities
In this case the President of Office of Competition and Consumer Protection also informed the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection about the doubts related to requesting scans of ID cards from consumers. The Office points out that in April 2022 the company abandoned the questioned practice, which was important for the reduction of the penalty.
Failure to inform buyers - waiving additional charges
The second allegation concerned buyers who were not informed about how to purchase without paying for so-called "Buyer Protection" which consists of a refund if the item purchased is not shipped or arrives damaged, as well as an assurance of secure payment. Clicking on the "Buy Now" button automatically triggered a "Buyer Protection" fee, which amounted to about € 0.6 plus 5% of the price. Although the company allowed transactions without additionally paid "Buyer Protection", it was not described how this protection could be waived. In practice finding and using this option was complicated. The buyer had to had to do a lot of unobvious actions to be able to give up this protection. However, the Office's decision does not stipulate that the company should allow shopping without paying additional fees, but that he should inform about this possibility if it envisages it.
The Office points out that if buying with "Buyer Protection" was the only option, the fee for this service should have been included in the presented price of the products, which was not the case. This fee was charged at the final stage of the purchase. Despite the ongoing proceedings, the company has not abandoned the questioned practice, therefore the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection ordered in the decision to discontinue it and inform consumers about the decision and the questioned practices on the Vinted.pl website and on Facebook.
Transparency and security of the transactions
Such platforms are increasingly popular among consumers. They are part of the idea of sustainable development and care for the environment, which is expressed, among other things, by giving a second life to second-hand items. Therefore, it is very important that such services respect consumer rights and ensure transparency and security of transactions - commented the President of the Office.