In a statement, UOKiK says it received complaints about UPC Polska unilaterally turning off certain channels and increasing its subscription fees. It therefore analysed the T&Cs and contractual templates and issued a decision finding the clauses used by UPC Polska to be prohibited. UOKiK continues by providing a detailed explanation as to why the clauses were illegal. This is as follows:
UPC Polska guaranteed only a number of TV channels on a certain subject matter and not specific channels indicated on the list. This was because the operator granted itself the right to change channels freely and unilaterally and could remove them during the term of the contract, as confirmed by consumer complaints. Many people chose UPC’s offering because of the availability of specific channels. Subsequently they were turned off.
UPC Polska stipulated that turning off channels was not an amendment to the contract. As a result, with fixed-term contracts, the consumer would have to pay fees if they wanted to opt out of UPC services. In the opinion of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, the operator may not change the material terms and conditions of its fixed-term contracts, which include the list of channels. In such a situation, individuals on fixed-term contracts should have the right to opt out of UPC services. In contracts for an indefinite period of time, channels may change only for important reasons specified in the T&Cs or contract.
Fee increases for no particular reason. UPC reserved the right in contracts to increase the subscription fee from PLN5 to PLN8 once a year, but did not specify the reasons for this.
Arbitrary decisions on whether a technician callout was unjustified. In such a situation, UPC would charge the consumer a fee of PLN50. The assessment of whether a service callout was necessary was unilateral and could not be verified by the consumer. This may also have discouraged customers from making a complaint.
Too general conditions for termination of the customer’s contract or a lack thereof. For example, UPC stipulated that it may do so for “important reasons, in particular legal, technical, organisational or economic reasons”. Thus, the customer did not know what factors could render them unable to use UPC services.
UOKIK concludes by saying it has fined UPC Polska a total of PLN32,858,511 and ordered the company to to inform its consumers about the decision and to reimburse fees resulting from subscription increases or unjustified technician callouts. The entity should also restore cancelled TV channels to customers if they are still available in its offer.
The also says that the decision is not legally binding.
UPC Polska responded to the decision by saying: “UPC stands out on the market in the value it provides to its customers and acts according to the highest transparency standards. While we appreciate the attention of UOKiK to the consumer protection, we strongly disagree with the interpretation of UPC’s specific contractual clauses. We believe such decision, questioning our practices since 2015, hinders market development, consumer choice and innovation, differentiating competition conditions for market players. Supported by the top experts in the field, we will appeal UOKiK’s decision, expecting that the court will confirm our position. We will continue to serve our customers providing increasing value and choice.”