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Did they cheat you in the store? Complain to the CTIA

If a trader has cheated you as a customer, sold you a fake or “junk” product and then failed to accept your claim, do not hesitate to defend yourself. You can, of course, go shopping at a competitor or describe the seller’s practices on social media. But the law gives you another important tool: you can file a complaint with the Czech Trade Inspection Authority.

podvedená žena v obchodě chce podat stížnosti na ČOI
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You are dealing with a problem with a trader and you don't know what to do

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When and who can you complain to?

Complaints can be made against most traders if they break any of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act. Typical offences dealt with by the Czech Trade Inspectorate include:

  • failure to inform the buyer of their rights when making a complaint,
  • failing to deal with a complaint within 30 days,
  • the use of unfair, deceptive or aggressive commercial practices,
  • offering products without instructions for use in the Czech language,
  • incorrect labelling or incorrect pricing.

Tip: We’ve outlined what to do if the trader doesn’t accept your claim in our article.

What practices not to indulge in?

The law talks about unfair, deceptive and aggressive commercial practices, which it makes illegal.

A typical example of an unfair commercial practice is when a trader gives the impression that certain goods can only be purchased for a limited period of time, for example, because a shop is (allegedly) going into liquidation or has goods available only on a one-off and short-term basis. He thus tries to induce the customer to buy quickly. However, when you return after a while, the shop is still open or the goods are still in stock.

An example of a deceptive practice is when a seller claims that its product can cure everything from a cold to cancer. The Czech Trade Inspection Authority itself cites as an example of a misleading practice a television advertisement in which the price of the service without VAT is highlighted on the product, while the price that includes VAT is in smaller print and not clearly attached. The recipient of the advertisement has limited time to read it and is therefore likely to register only the price excluding VAT. Therefore, even an essentially truthful advertisement can be misleading if the deceptive nature of the message is apparent.

This aggressive practice was typically the case with the so-called ‘scumbags‘, as they were referred to in the document of the same name, who took seniors away from their home town under the pretext of a trip. Here, they would lock them up in community halls and offer them typically overpriced blankets or pots of poor quality. Their business strategy was, for example, to announce the opening of the hall only after at least 20 items had been purchased, or to take only those who bought something during the trip away from the hall.

In the case of offering goods at a promotional price (typically various Black Fridays), the trader should ensure sufficient quantities of goods to take into account the length of the event, the nature of the goods and the level of discount. Failure to do so could be considered an unfair practice (referred to as enticement advertising).

Tip: A common defect found by the Czech Trade Inspection Authority in traders are errors in the terms and conditions. Read what they usually consist of.

Which complaints will the CTIA not resolve?

However, you will not succeed in dealing with all of the merchants’ offences with the CTIA. This can happen in a situation where you disagree with the behaviour of the seller, but the law does not consider it to be defective.

Typically, however, this applies to situations that are the responsibility of other authorities.

  • In the case of submissions relating to telecommunications services (billing of a telecommunications operator or internet provider) or postal services, you should contact the Czech Telecommunications Office.
  • In the case of misleading practices by energy providers or in the event of problems with billing, the Energy Regulatory Office and the State Energy Inspectorate will be responsible for the matter.
  • Complaints concerning food, agricultural or tobacco products will be dealt with by the State Agricultural and Food Inspectorate.
  • Disputes relating to loans and interest on loans will be dealt with by a court or an arbitrator if you have a valid arbitration agreement.

Where to file a complaint?

The Czech Trade Inspection Authority has regional inspectorates throughout the Czech Republic. You can find the address and contact details of the specific inspectorate under which “your” trader falls on the website www.coi.cz. You can either go there in person during office hours for advice, or try telephone contact. You can then submit your complaint in writing or electronically via the electronic filing system.

What should the complaint contain?

In your complaint, first of all, state who is making the complaint, including contact details and a more detailed identification, e.g. date of birth. Also indicate the inspectorate to which you are directing your complaint. The most important thing is to describe your problem in detail, describe in particular how the trader has violated the law in your opinion and provide the necessary evidence to prove your claims (report on the complaint received, sales receipt, photo of the misleadingly labelled product, communication with the trader, etc.).

How can the Czech Trade Inspection Authority proceed?

The CTI should resolve your complaint within 30 days. During this time, the CZO will carry out an investigation at the trader’s premises.

If it is a general complaint (mislabelling of prices or misleading commercial practice), your name will not be disclosed to the trader. However, your complaint can no longer be handled without specific details, for example, if it is a complaint about a faulty handling of a complaint. You will be informed of the outcome of the investigation. If the CTI finds a breach of the law, it can take several courses of action.

The Czech Trade Inspection Authority can impose a fine of up to CZK 50 million on the offending trader . However, these ranges are quite rare, and as a rule, penalties in the thousands or tens of thousands are imposed. For less serious breaches of the law, inspectors on the spot impose a fine of up to CZK 5,000.

Another instrument used by the CTIA is various bans on the sale of products or bans on the marketing of products if they do not comply with the legal requirements.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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