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Introduction

In 1994 McDonald’s brought a suit for a libel against two ecologists. Fie years later the suit continued and McDonald’s didn’t have a clue how bring it to an end without losing its face. Internet website, created in defence of accused activists, was opened over 65 million times during the span of three years. This situation was described as the biggest catastrophe in the history of public relations.

As a result of both professional and amateurish campaigns organized in the Internet, Monsanto, Shell, and others big corporations are made, cannot stop with calculating their profit, they also have to justify it1.

Example given above is just one of a legion of similar situations, and shows how powerful may be this new medium – Internet. The minimal effort required to create a web page accessible to every user of Internet equals a few minutes of work and practically no expenditures. Never before, until the rise of the Internet, ordinary people had in their hands so powerful means of gathering, processing and sharing data on global scale.

All this may seem to be irrelevant to electronic commerce and position of customers within its frameworks. However if to consider how important for consumers is obtaining information about available potential options of satisfying their needs; while on the other hand maintaining good image, and presentation of their offer is essential for businesses, existence and rapid development of the Internet cannot be regarded as immaterial for consumer law.

The subject of my thesis has undergone serious modifications within the span of work, as a result of conducted researches and author’s reflection. Searching for a subject on the edge of consumer law and e-commerce, I have decided to write on informational duties of entrepreneurs. In practice specificity of consumer protection in e-commerce (and generally in distance transactions) consists in introduction of two characteristic elements – consumer’s right to withdraw from already concluded transaction and increased informational duties of an entrepreneur. The latter area presents especially interesting field for researches and undergoes dynamic changes.

Finally – why interactive webpages? – what I will discuss in detail on page 8, while so called “static webpages” represent a mere modification of distance sales conducted so far than transactions conducted by means of interactive webpages constitute a new quality in online trade and as such deserve particular attention.

There are too many important acts of law to enumerate them here – most important are presented in the chapter Development of consumer law, on pages 55 and following.

In the first chapter, I am undertaking a task of defining the very notion of e-commerce with specification of its different forms and presentation of consumers’ position therein. I sacrifice some space also to presentation of the notion of information society services and its mutual relations with e-commerce.

The second chapter presents a brief description of how online contracts are concluded, along with presentation of specificity of interactive webpages. The most important questions I’m trying to answer in this chapter are the nature of information provided on an interactive webpage (an offer or invitation to make an offer), time and place of online contracts’ conclusion.

In the following chapter I’m making attempt of defining who exactly may take advantage of consumer law protection, I present main approach assumed in EU regulation as well as evolution of Polish definition of consumer. Moreover I am trying to present consumers in comparison with entrepreneurs and relationships between notions of ISP (internet service provider) and entrepreneur.

The fourth, relatively short, chapter describes the qualities ascribed in EU law to the consumers and determination of such a standard is necessary in assessing whether consumers are sufficiently informed by the entrepreneur. It is especially important to determine the required minimal level of transparency of information which ought to be provided.

The fifth chapter presents evolution of consumer law in the EC with the special stress put on protection in e-commerce and distance transactions, and the current state of implementation of these provisions into the Polish legal system.

Two subsequent chapters present the specific informational requirements of entrepreneurs conducting online sale. I have found it desirable to split this matter into two chapters for two reasons. First of all due to the surprising abundance of provisions regulating this issue, but also because analysis of the abovementioned provisions clearly suggests two parallel tendencies in developing entrepreneurs’ informational duties. One being requirements concerning the form of information presentation, the other referring rather to the specific information which ought to be given to consumer.

The last chapter presents sanctions for infringement of informational duties and perspectives of realization of consumer’s rights. In this chapter I have decided to distinguish two most important kinds of sanctions – these available to particular consumers and also very important for effective protection of consumers’ interests means of protection of collective interests of consumers – most of all means to which are entitled consumer organizations.