AmCham March Monthly Meeting

The March Monthly Meeting was held on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Our guest speaker was Mr. Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKIK). The meeting was moderated by AmCham Chairman Tony Housh. 

Opening the meeting, Mr. Chróstny referred to the situation in Ukraine, expressing his support for Ukraine, and underlined that the Office will remain in its role of the market regulator to protect rules of fair competition and consumers, no matter their country of origin. He suggested that in the future, some actions may be taken to eliminate Russian and Belarusian products and services from the market. 

Our speakers listed planned areas of activity for UOKIK in 2022, mentioning banking, insurance, and telecom sectors. He aims to make the Office react quicker on the market changes improve the efficiency of merger and investment control. Having illustrated it with an example of the Spanish railway, he repeated that fair competition is the best way to care for consumers. 

One of the biggest, long-term challenges for the Office is the rapid development of technology and its adoption by society. Everyone is aware that market regulations do not keep up with the development of technology, especially in recent years, this gap is growing. Deliberating on this issue, Mr. Chróstny mentioned a couple of threats, including freely data sharing by mobile apps users who, in return for so-called ‘free’ services, share their personal data, not being aware of potential consequences. Another example mentioned was sales bots – an automated system that contacts random consumers. Many of them, not only in Poland, are used to extortion of personal data. Last but not least, he pointed out the energy sector as the one that needs to be secured to secure appropriate competition for next decades. For those reasons, one of the ways UOKIK must transform is to employ more data scientists and economists. 

In the next part, Mr. Chróstny referred to Digital Market Act (DMA) as one of the solutions for the legislation and proceeding delays. DMA is an ‘ex-ante’ type of legislation, contrary to the existing ‘ex-post’ type of regulations. Thanks to such an approach,  it will be possible to eliminate infringements and practices from the market before negative, long-term effects will have to be investigated. 

Another question was about the potential preferential treatment of state-owned businesses. Our guest pointed out that Poland has a slightly different situation from other European countries. Large, international companies may have a dominating position not only locally. Whereas Polish companies, even the biggest ones, may rather create issues for the regulator on the domestic level. Building a proper environment for the competition is the way to avoid such judgments and decisions. In that case, the best possible tool will be well-established and effective merger control. 

Today 30% (market share) is the level that triggers UOKIK action. From the economic, and not only legal point of view, it is known that even below 30%, the competition – understood as the freedom of choice – may not be sufficient. The change of consumers’ mindset and approach, together with a deeper understanding of the market mechanisms, should bring the correct understanding of the regulator’s role – not the one that punishes, but the one that seeks positive solutions. According to Mr. Chróstny, that is a way to improve the perception of UOKIK as an independent body. Adding to that, Mr. Chróstny assured all our guests of his personal focus on keeping the Office independent through a number of mechanisms and policies, including employment policy. 

Orlen and Polska Press merge and the ‘Sped-Pro’ case were scope of the additional question, asked by one of AmCham Members present in the room, who expressed his personal doubts on the character of the activity of the Office in those processes. Due to the complexity of the ‘Sped-Pro’ issue, our guest blamed incorrect communication between the Office and the European Commission and referred to the official UOKIK statement on the Office website. As for Orlen and Polska Press, Mr. Chróstny clearly stated that those two companies are operating in different markets on the ground of the competition law, so any action taken to stop the merge would be against the law. UOKIK has already asked the court for an opinion on their decision and is awaiting the answer. 

At the end of the meeting, our guest once again expressed his support for Ukraine and, at the same time, confirmed that UOKIK will continue to observe the Polish market and take action when needed. Long-term market stabilization achieved by transparency and efficiency will remain the goal of the Office. 


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