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Poland slaps over $15.847 million fine for owner of Biedronka stores

Christian Fernsby |
The owner of the Biedronka chain misled consumers about the country of origin of fruit and vegetables, which could have distorted their purchasing decisions.

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Topics: POLAND   

Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, initiated proceedings against Jeronimo Martins Polska in May 2020. It was caused by complaints about the incorrect indication of the country of origin of vegetables and fruit in many Biedronka stores and the results of inspections by the Trade Inspection confirming this.

During the investigation, the Office took into account the results of inspections conducted by the Trade Inspection in Q4 2019, Q1 and Q2 2020 as well as in February 2021. The inspectors compared the data on the in-store tags with that on the bulk or individual packaging and the delivery documents. They paid particular attention to fruits and vegetables that were marked as Polish.

They were especially interested in the products that were most likely to be marked with a wrong country of origin because they grow both in Poland and in other countries, e.g. potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, apples, and strawberries. Inspectors checked a total of 263 Biedronka stores across the country.

In 73 of them, that is 27.8 per cent of the inspected establishments, they found improper labeling of fruits and vegetables in terms of the country of origin. In these stores, in some cases, the scope of irregularities was as high as over 20 per cent of the inspected batches of products.

For example, the sign at the counter said "Poland" even though the garlic actually sold on 15 October 2019 at Biedronka in Łódz came from Spain, potatoes offered on 19 February 2020 in Radymno (Podkarpackie) – from France, savoy cabbage sold on 19 February 2020 in Kołobrzeg – from France, celery offered on 12 May 2020 at the discount store in Koszalin – from the Netherlands, pears available on 24 February 2021 at Biedronka in Katowice – from the Netherlands, and shallot onions that could be purchased on 24 February 2021 in a store in Bydgoszcz – from France.

The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed a penalty of over PLN 60 million (PLN 60,096,307) ($15.847 million) on Jeronimo Martins Polska for misleading consumers about the country of origin of fruit and vegetables sold in Biedronka stores. The decision is not final, the company can appeal to the court.

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