Polish consumer office fines second-hand clothes marketplace Vinted for misleading clients

Poland’s consumer authority has imposed a 5.3 million zloty (€1.14 million) fine on Vinted, a popular online marketplace for trading second-hand items.

In its decision, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) said that the Lithuanian firm had provided inadequate information regarding the conditions of access to the money earned by sellers on the platform and the possibility of opting out of a paid feature protecting buyers.

In response, Vinted – which operates in 15 markets across Europe and North America and was last year valued at €3.5 billion – has said that it will contest the decision.

UOKiK found that Vinted provided insufficient information in its terms and conditions and when setting up a virtual wallet about the fact that access to money earned on the platform may involve the need to meet additional conditions related to identity verification.

“The terms of service only indicated that money from the e-wallet could be transferred to your bank account at any time,” said the regulator in the justification for its decision published on Tuesday. “The message about the need to verify identity came too late – after the transaction had already occurred.”

UOKiK also questioned Vinted’s practices towards buyers, namely the lack of information on how to opt out of the “buyer protection” fee. “Although the company allows transactions without ‘buyer protection’, nowhere is it described how to use such a method,” said UOKiK. “Buyers have to figure it out on their own.”

According to the regulator, these failings exposed consumers – who can use the platform to sell and exchange second-hand clothing and other items – to unfavourable decisions and the loss of time and money.

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Vinted – whose app has been downloaded over five million times on Google Play – pushed back against the accusations in a statement published by Polish media on Wednesday, vowing to appeal the regulator’s decision.

“We have cooperated fully with UOKiK during the proceedings to find solutions to address concerns, and for this reason we are disappointed with the decision,” said the company, quoted by Telepolis, a telecommunication news portal.

Vinted said that, while it did not share the regulator’s opinion regarding the client verification procedures, it has increased the amount of information available to platform members about the potential verification process.

Poland’s market in used clothes, valued at around 5-6 billion zloty a year, is thriving, as it increasingly moves online and upmarket, catering to a more fashion- and environment-conscious young clientele.

This trend was outlined in a recent report by Accenture on consumer choices, which found that 44% of Poles first look for second-hand items when they need clothes, shoes or accessories.

“Platforms such as Vinted are increasingly popular among consumers,” said UOKIK’s president, Tomasz Chróstny, in yesterday’s statement. “They fit in with the idea of sustainable development and care for the environment, which is expressed, for example, in giving a second life to second-hand goods.”

This makes “it very important that such services respect consumer rights and ensure transparency and security of transactions”, he added.

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Main image credit:  Alicja Ptak/Notes from Poland

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