Across the European Union, directives are set forth with a vision for unity and solidarity. By creating a shared framework, the goal is to bring 27 member countries closer, fostering an environment of trust and cooperation. However, the beauty of the EU lies in its rich diversity — from languages to cultures and from economic structures to legal traditions. This plethora of differences, while enriching, can also lead to varied interpretations and implementations of directives, sometimes tilting the scales unfavourably for businesses in certain countries – For instance, the case of the Omnibus Directive Poland.
The Principle of Harmonisation and EU Directives
At the heart of the EU’s functioning lies the principle of harmonization. It’s about creating a unified set of rules across member states to ensure an equal playing field, particularly for the single market. Yet, it is crucial to note that directives, unlike regulations, are not directly applicable without local implementation. Member states are given the discretion to choose the form and method of implementation. As a result, countries often tailor these directives based on their unique national circumstances and requirements. In some cases, this can inadvertently disadvantage or support local businesses against other member states.
The Omnibus Directive: A comparison example of Finland and Poland
A salient example of this is the Omnibus Directive, particularly concerning the display of product prices – as the directive requires also other adds to the transparency. The directive mandates that all EU merchants display the 30-day lowest price when products are on discount, providing clarity on the product’s real value to the consumers and avoiding misleading price reductions.
In Finland, businesses comply with this rule and have the flexibility to adjust their prices downwards even during a campaign. They can still showcase the price before the campaign started as the 30-day lowest price. Additionally, the Finnish interpretation of the directive is that the 30-day lowest price should consider general discount codes, potentially lowering the lowest 30-day price point even further.
Contrastingly, Poland interprets the directive with more rigidity. Should a company decide to change the price during a promotional campaign, it must adjust the 30-day lowest price to reflect the most recent discounted rate, leaving less room for spontaneous marketing strategies. Especially in cases where markdown pricing is used to lower stock with ever increasing discounts. Furthermore, when it comes to discount codes, interpretations of Polish authorities are even stricter. All discount codes associated with a product must be factored into the 30-day lowest price calculation. This means that even discount codes that are directed to segmented groups, being even small, must be incorporated. Similarly, according to the guidelines issued in Poland, the Omnibus Directive is also to cover part of loyalty programs.
It is important to consider whether the strong differentiation of details from one member state to another, really serves to effectively protect the European consumer.
Also relevant is the fact that from very general provisions local authorities can interpret very far-reaching conclusions that may even be contradictory. The question may arise as to the legal status of these interpretations/guidelines.
The Implications for Competitive Positions Between Countries
Such varied implementations can inadvertently create imbalances in the competitive landscape. Companies in Finland enjoy more flexibility with pricing strategies and promotional campaigns. This freedom can lead to dynamic marketing tactics, helping businesses attract more customers. It could also mean that Finnish businesses might be able to offer better deals, potentially driving cross-border shopping and placing Polish merchants at a disadvantage.
On the other hand, the stricter Polish regulations might ensure greater transparency for consumers but could also stifle business innovation. Polish merchants might find it challenging to keep pace with their Finnish counterparts, leading to potential revenue losses and market share erosion.
In the grander scheme of things, as more directives come into play and as the EU continues to grow, it’s vital to address these discrepancies. Striking a balance between allowing nations to retain their unique identities and ensuring a level playing field for businesses is crucial for the continued success and solidarity of the European Union.
As the Omnibus Directive implementation continues in different countries, we will monitor and update the situation in our coming blog posts.
The blog post is written in co-operation with a Polish legal expert Marcin Tomczak from Ecommerce.legal. Marcin is an experienced legal professional who is helping with navigating the complexities of Ecommerce legalities in Poland.
Owner Ecommerce Legal Poland
Most frequent questions and answers
The lowest 30-day price is the prior price before a discount. Finnish businesses can adjust their prices downwards during a campaign and still showcase the campaign’s starting price as the 30-day lowest price up to 60 days.
Poland’s interpretation is stricter than compared to Finland. If a business lowers its price during a campaign, the 30-day lowest price (also known as the Omnibus Price) must reflect this new discounted rate.
Yes, Finland’s interpretation includes general, widely available discount codes, which can further lower the 30-day price point.
Yes, Polish authorities require all discount codes associated with a product, even those targeted to specific groups, to be factored into the 30-day lowest price calculation.
Poland’s interpretation limits the effectiveness of some discount tactics, especially when using increasing discounts. Ever increasing discounts cannot use the prior 30-day price as the price anchoring object.