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Advertising

  1. General information
  2. Acts of unfair competition and advertising
  3. Particular types of advertising




1. General information

Advertising is defined as a communication promoting the sale or use of products or services, or supporting certain ideas or achieving other effects, expected by an advertiser, published upon payment or other form of remuneration.

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2. Acts of unfair competition and advertising

According to the Unfair Competition Act, advertisement (unfair or prohibited) may also constitute an act of unfair competition. An act of unfair competition is also committed by an advertising agency or other business, who prepared the advertisement. Advertising contrary to law, good customs or infringing human dignity shall constitute an act of unfair competition.

Unlawfulness of an advertisement may result from:

  • Advertising products or services, whose advertising is prohibited or restricted by law (e.g. alcohol, prescription medicines or legal services);
  • Advertising products or services with reference to some prohibited designations or names (e.g. using a word 'bank' in an advertisement of services of an entity other than a bank)
  • Violating rules on advertising in mass media (e.g. advertising of medicines delivered exclusively upon a physician’s prescription).

Even if an advertisement is not contrary to provisions of law, it may still constitute an act of unfair competition if it is contrary to good customs or violates human dignity. This shall be advertising violating rules of morality, accepted in Poland, i.e. advertising based on abusive words, pictures, etc; or advertising aimed at disregarding prohibition of advertising certain products, such as passing off as a permitted advertisement.

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a. Misleading advertising

Misleading advertising is an act of unfair competition if it may influence a consumer’s decision concerning the purchase of a product or service. It should be noted that even a communication, which is objectively true, may be misleading if it causes a false opinion of a recipient on a product’s or service’s characteristics. This refers e.g. to an advertisement, which emphasises ordinary, normal attributes of a given product - an advertisement’s recipients may, on this basis, conclude that other products of that sort do not possess a given attribute. Nevertheless, certain exaggeration is allowed in advertising.

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b. Advertising unlawfully referring to clients’ feelings

Not each advertisement, which directly refers to clients’ feelings, is an act of unfair competition, as this only refers to an advertisement, which causes fear, uses superstitions or children’s credulity. In order to assess whether a given advertisement violates an aforementioned prohibition, feelings of an average recipient of this advertisement should be taken into account.

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c. Hidden advertisement

A hidden advertisement is one that encourages consumers to purchase products or services in such a way that the target recipient considers it to be a neutral, objective presentation of those products or services.

A hidden advertisement may be conducted in a form of:

  • Editorial advertisement or 'advertorial', which is included in the content of an radio or TV programme, or press article in such a way that the listener or reader does not distinguish between advertising and rest of communication;
  • Advertising via expert opinions or scientific publications - advertising hidden in outwardly neutral publication of a scientific nature.

Subliminal advertising is not an considered to be an act of unfair competition, however it is prohibited according to the Radio and Television Act , discussed below.

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d. Advertising violating privacy

An advertisement violating the privacy of its recipients, in particular by besieging clients in public places, sending unsolicited products to clients at their cost or abusing technical means of communication such as faxes or emails, constitutes an act of unfair competition.

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e. Comparative advertisement

An advertisement, which enables recipients, directly or indirectly, to recognise a competitor, or products or services offered by a competitor, is a comparative advertisement. Such advertisement constitutes an act of unfair competition, unless it is not contrary to good practices, i.e. it jointly meets all below conditions:

  • It is not misleading;
  • It compares products or services reliably, in a way which is possible to be verified and on the basis of objective criteria;
  • Compares one or more material, characteristic, verifiable and typical attributes of those products and services;
  • Does not cause confusions in the market concerning distinguishing between an advertiser and its competitor;
  • Does not discredit products, services, activities etc. of a competitor;
  • As far as products with a protected geographical designation or a protected designation of place of origin are concerned, it always refers to products with the same designation;
  • Does not unfairly use neither a goodwill of a trademark, designation of enterprise and other designation distinguishing the competitor or a protected geographical designation/a protected designation of place of origin of a competitor’s enterprise;
  • Does not present a product or a service as an imitation of a product or service granted a protected trademark, a protected geographical designation/a protected designation of place of origin or other distinguishing designation.

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4. Particular types of advertising

Advertisements of certain products or services are subject to special legal regulation. In particular, it refers to the following categories of advertising:

a. Product placement

Product placement is a commercial transfer integral with programs in which appears. The purpose of product placement is to present or refer to the goods, services or trademarks. Product placement is allowed in movies, television shows, sports programmes and entertainment programs. Products can be placed in exchange for money or free of charge in the form of, for example, awards or prop. Programs containing product placement must be clearly marked by graphic or audio signal before the start of the program, after its completion, and when a program resumes after an advertising break. It is forbidden to excessive exposure of the product in programs and direct encouragement to buy the product. Product placement does not relieve the consignor from responsibility for the content of programs.

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b. Advertising alcohol

According to the Act on combating alcoholism, advertising of alcoholic drinks is prohibited in Poland, except for advertising of beer, which is allowed, provided that it is not:

  • Addressed to minors
  • Performed on the basis of creating associations with sexual attractiveness, leisure, body fitness, science, professional activities, job or life success, health
  • Conducted in television, radio, cinema or theatre between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., except for advertising performed by an organiser of a sport event during that event
  • On video tapes or other data carriers
  • In youth or children's press
  • On front pages of daily newspapers or magazines
  • On posters or billboards, unless 20% of advertising space is used for information about the detrimental effects of using alcohol / prohibition of selling alcohol to minors
  • With minors.

The aforementioned restrictions do not refer to advertising conducted inside warehouses, separated places selling alcoholic beverages, so for example advertising vodka is permitted inside a pub, warehouse of alcoholic beverages or a separated area within a retail store.

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c. Tobacco advertising

Accordingly with the Act on protection of health against effects of using tobacco and tobacco products, advertising or promoting of cigarettes and other products or devices/symbols connected with usage of tobacco shall be prohibited.

In particular, this prohibition refers to advertising of cigarettes:

  • In television, radio, cinemas, health treatment units, schools and educational units, sport and leisure centres and other public places;
  • In the press;
  • On posters or billboards;
  • In electronic media.

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d. Advertising of medicines

According to the Pharmaceutical Law, advertising of medicines is subject to special restrictions. The following restrictions should be mentioned:

  • Advertising of medicines delivered only upon a prescription may be addressed only to professionals, i.e. doctors, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons
  • Advertising of medicines may not be addressed to children
  • Advertisement of medicines, which is addressed to the public, may not show celebrities or physicians or pharmacists presenting medicines
  • Advertising of medicines may not be misleading
  • Advertisement of medicines, when addressed to the public, must contain the wording: 'Before use read the leaflet included in the package or consult a doctor or pharmacist, because each medicine inappropriately applied causes hazard to your life or health'.

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e. Advertising of games of chance

According to provisions of the Act on gambling, it is prohibited to advertise in Poland: video lotteries, cylindrical games, card games, mutual betting and machine games. However, this prohibition does not concern advertising or promotion in places performing gaming or betting activities.

These prohibitions do not apply to advertising and promotion performed inside of a casino and place of performing gaming or betting activities, nor to indication of name outside, on the building where such activity is performed.

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f. Television and radio advertising

The Radio and Television Act contains several restrictions concerning advertising. These refer to both a form and means of advertisement, and to the advertising of certain products or services. The latter restrictions are in line with the other legal acts (alcohol, tobacco etc). Among restrictions of a first type are:

  • The requirement that advertisements do not last for more than 12 minutes within an hour;
  • Prohibition of advertising during a feature-length film more frequently than once every 45 minutes of the film’s duration;
  • Prohibition of advertising during sport events containing intervals resulting from regulations of certain sport discipline and other events containing intervals more frequently than provided with the Act;
  • Prohibition of interrupting programmes other than movies or sport events more frequently than once every 20 minutes (in radio - once every 10 minutes);
  • Prohibition of interrupting (for the purpose of advertising) of certain auditions, e.g. information programmes or auditions for children;
  • Prohibition of using the voice or appearance of persons, who presented information programmes or programmes for children not earlier than three months before the date of broadcasting the advertisement;
  • Prohibition of advertising that directly incites minors to purchase products or services or to force their parents/other persons to purchase advertised products or services;
  • Prohibition of advertising which plays on minors’ trust in their parents, teachers or other persons;
  • Prohibition of advertising which in unjustified way shows minors in dangerous situations;
  • Prohibition of advertising which, in a hidden way, influences the subconscious mind (so-called subliminal advertising) or of hidden advertising;
  • Prohibition of advertising which violates human dignity, is discriminatory, including that which endangers the physical, psychological or moral development of minors.

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(Last update: February 2013)

Prepared for the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency by:

Kancelaria - Leśnodorski, Ślusarek i Wspólnicy

Autor: Maciej Ślusarek


Polish Investment and Trade Agency

Krucza 50

00-025 Warsaw


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