As stated previously, the Polish market is in most cases regional, and this description applies to selling as well. Because unemployment is lower and the average income is higher in Polish cities, urban dwellers generally have more purchasing power than inhabitants of rural areas. The countryside is dotted with single-factory towns, many of which currently suffer from higher unemployment rates.
Websites and e-mails are effective tools to introduce a product or service to a Polish company. Communication in Polish is recommended if the seller would like to receive a speedy reply. U.S. companies should ensure that translations from English into Polish are performed only by proficient translators who are fluent in modern business Polish and grammar.
The average Polish customer no longer requires face-to-face contact with a person selling a product.
The role of the internet in securing business contacts is growing and can now be considered a valuable selling tool. Over 92% of Polish households have internet access, and almost 70% of them buy online (Statistics Poland). A majority of banking customers actively use internet banking services.
U.S. companies that are little known outside the U.S. may need to make a significant effort (often marketing, training, or other promotional activities) to convince prospective Polish customer of their credibility. Product demonstrations are effective, as Poles tend to be skeptical about claims until they are proven. Sponsored visits to the U.S. company headquarter or manufacturing plant frequently help convince Polish buyers to purchase a U.S. product.
The decision-making process, especially in large companies or government agencies, can be slow, as every person or section involved in a decision usually must sign off before a decision is made. It may take several meetings and many rounds of negotiations before a deal is closed. This means that success in Poland could be difficult without an in-country presence, whether that presence is an agent, distributor, or representative office.
Polish customers will want to discuss the technical parameters of the product, explain their needs, and negotiate the price. In addition, the product may not be sold at the first meeting, as the customer will want some time to consider the points discussed and to arrange financing. Initial orders are frequently small due to Poles’ access to limited amounts of working capital and high interest rates on loans. Follow-on sales often grow rapidly once product effectiveness and profitability are established.
Many Polish firms complain that access to capital is a problem. This is a particularly acute problem for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Most Polish firms are too small to consider going public or to issue commercial paper so business activities, including payment for imports, are usually self-financed. U.S. companies that can arrange for affordable financing for their Polish customers will have an edge over their competitors. The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) offers a credit insurance program that can help U.S. SMEs in this regard.
Doing business in Poland is built upon personal relationships and trust. U.S. companies have an advantage in Poland, as the United States, its people, and products are generally held in high regard.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Laws against misleading advertisements differ widely from member state to member state within the EU. To respond to this issue in the internal market, the Commission adopted a directive, in force since October 1986, to establish minimum and objective criteria regarding truth in advertising. The Directive was amended in October 1997 to include comparative advertising. Under the Directive, misleading advertising is defined as any “advertising which in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behavior or which for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor.” Member States can authorize even more extensive protection under their national laws.
Comparative advertising, subject to certain conditions, is defined as “advertising which explicitly or by implication identifies a competitor or goods or services of a competitor.”
Member States can, and in some cases have, restricted misleading or comparative advertising.
The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) outlines legislation on broadcasting activities allowed within the EU. Since 2009, the rules allowing for U.S.-style product placement on television with exceptions. The AVMS was revised to extend the scope of the Directive to video-sharing platforms and social media in some circumstances. Children’s programming is subject to a code of conduct that includes a limit on junk food advertising to children, but organizations subject to the AVMS Directive are encouraged to do more to protect children. Following the adoption of the 1999 Council Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, product specifications, as found in advertising, are considered as legally binding on the seller.
The EU adopted Directive 2005/29/EC concerning fair business practices in a further attempt to tighten consumer protection rules. These rules outlaw several aggressive or deceptive marketing practices such as pyramid schemes, “liquidation sales,” and artificially high prices as the basis for discounts in addition to other potentially misleading advertising practices. Certain rules on advertising to children are also set out.
- Audiovisual Media Services Directive
- Misleading Advertising
- Unfair Commercial Practices Directive
The advertising of medicinal products for human use is regulated by Council Directive 2001/83/EC, as amended by Directive 2004/27/EC. The advertising of medicinal products is forbidden if market authorization has not been granted or if the product in question is a prescription drug. Mentioning therapeutic indications where self-medication is not suitable is not permitted, nor is the distribution of free samples to the general public. The text of the advertisement should be compatible with the characteristics listed on the product label and should encourage rational use of the product. The advertising of medicinal products destined for professionals should contain essential characteristics of the product as well as its classification. Inducements to prescribe or supply a medicinal product are prohibited.
Nutrition & Health Claims
On July 1, 2007, a regulation on nutrition and health claims entered into force. Regulation 1924/2006 sets EU-wide conditions for the use of nutrition claims such as “low fat” or “high in vitamin C” and health claims such as “helps lower cholesterol.” The regulation applies to any food or drink product produced for human consumption that is marketed in the EU. Only foods that fit a certain nutrient profile (below certain salt, sugar and/or fat levels) can carry claims. Nutrition and health claims are only allowed on food labels if they are included in one of the EU’s positive lists. Food products carrying claims must comply with the provisions of nutritional labeling Directive 90/496/EC and its amended version Directive 1169/2011.
In December 2012, a list of approved functional health claims went into effect. The list includes generic claims for substances other than botanicals which will be evaluated at a later date. Disease risk reduction claims and claims referring to the health and development of children require an authorization on a case-by-case basis, following the submission of a scientific dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Health claims based on new scientific data will have to be submitted to EFSA for evaluation, but a more simplified authorization procedure has been established.
Nutrition claims, in place since 2006, can fail one criterion, e.g., if only one nutrient (salt, sugar, or fat) exceeds the limit of the profile, a claim can still be made provided the high level of that particular nutrient is clearly marked on the label. For example, a yogurt can make a low-fat claim even if it has high sugar content but only if the label clearly states, “high sugar content.” A European Union Register of nutrition claims has been established and is updated regularly. Health claims cannot fail any criteria.
In May 2020, as part of the EU Green Deal, the Commission announced that it would set nutrient profiles to restrict promotion of food high in salt, sugars and/or fat as required by Regulation 1924/2006 before the end of 2022. Currently, the implementation of Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods remains incomplete since the Commission did not establish nutrient profiles that had to be set by January 2009. In that context, nutrient profiles are thresholds of nutrients such as fat, sugars, and salt above which nutrition and health claims are restricted or prohibited. This proposal builds on the results of the EU’s regulatory fitness and performance program (REFIT) evaluation of the EU legislation on nutrition and health claims launched in 2015.
Detailed information on the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims policy can be found on the USEU/FAS website and in the USDA Food and Agriculture (USDA Food and Agriculture Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2020).
- EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims
- Food Information to Consumers
Currently, the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation is the main EU labelling legislation. More information can be found in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import (USDA Food and Agriculture Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2020).
In 2015, the EU adopted a new regulation on novel foods (2015/2283) amending the provision of food information to consumers (1169/2011). Novel foods and food ingredients must not present a danger for the consumer or mislead him and should not differ from the ingredients that they are intended to replace to such an extent that normal consumption would represent a nutritional disadvantage for the consumer. It is important to mention that the European Commission may decide, on its own initiative or upon a request by a Member State, by means of implementing acts (a sort of decree), whether or not a particular food falls within the definition of novel food. More information can be found on the Commission’s website. Most provisions of this new Novel Foods Regulation become applicable on January 1, 2018.
The Common Organization of the Markets establishes the specific information that must accompany fishery and aquaculture products sold to consumers and mass caterers. These requirements compliment the general EU rules on the provision of food information to consumers and contribute to more transparency on the market as they enable consumers to make informed choices on the products they buy. The new rules have become applicable since December 13, 2014. The Commission has published a pocket guide to the EU’s new fish and aquaculture consumer labels.
Detailed information on the EU’s new food labeling rules can be found on the USEU/FAS website at EU Labelling Requirements and in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2020.
- U.S. FDA
Directive 2002/46/EC harmonizes the rules on labeling of food supplements and introduces specific rules on vitamins and minerals in food supplements. Ingredients other than vitamins and minerals are still regulated by Member States.
Regulation 1925/2006, applicable as of July 1, 2007, harmonizes rules on the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. The regulation lists the vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods. This list was most recently revised in 2014. A positive list of substances other than vitamins and minerals has not been established yet, although it is being developed. Until then, member state laws will govern the use of these substances.
- European Commission - Food Safety
The EU Tobacco Advertising Directive bans tobacco advertising in printed media, radio, and internet as well as the sponsorship of cross-border events or activities. Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or merchandising is allowed, though these are banned in many Member States. Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s and is governed by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. A 2016 revision to the legislation includes the requirement for bigger, double-sided health pictorial warnings on cigarette packages and possibility for plain packaging along with health warnings, tracking systems.
- Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU)
Local Market Specifics
Trade fair activities in Poland grew rapidly at the beginning of the last decade, from a single major event (the annual June Poznan International Fair) to a full year’s schedule of industry and product specific events in major cities around the country. For information on upcoming trade events please see the information on trade fairs and events in Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports and Investments. Some fairs are still proving their worth, while others have lost popularity in recent years and are no longer attracting key Polish and international businesses. Direct U.S. company presence at trade fairs in Poland is minimal, but some U.S. firms exhibit through their European or Polish distributors. U.S. firms exhibiting in larger Western European trade fairs, particularly those in the Commercial Service’s Showcase Europe program, will encounter Polish buyers at those events. The U.S. Commercial Service in Warsaw can help you find distributors interested in representing U.S. products at Polish fairs.
Advertising in Poland is considered important, not only in the consumer product field, but also in developing a company image for all types of goods. Television, which reaches virtually every home in Poland via local channels or satellite, is believed to be the most effective advertising medium in Poland. Products advertised through television commercials show the greatest sales growth among all advertised products. The bulk of advertising revenues go to television. The price of television spots on top rated shows has grown dramatically in the last few years as demand has soared. Radio is another means of advertising with 261 local radio stations as well as 6 national networks in operation: Polskie Radio SA Program 1, Polskie Radio SA Program 2, Polskie Radio SA Program 3, Polskie Radio SA Program 4, RMF FM, Radio ZET and TOKFM.
There is a ban on cigarette and alcohol (including beer and wine) advertising for broadcasters and on alcohol ads for display and print media. There is also a ban on pharmaceutical advertising, except for over the counter (OTC) drugs and in professional publications.
Print media advertising is sophisticated and the print media market itself has grown to include a full range of publications. Major newspapers circulate throughout Poland and reach every corner of the country. In addition, special interest magazines, business journals, niche publications, and specialized newspapers have proliferated. Newsweek Polska, a division of Newsweek, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (launched in 2001) and the Polish edition of Forbes magazine, which was launched in January 2005, celebrates its 16th anniversary this year. Classified advertising is very well developed and effective. Most U.S. companies find print media to be a highly effective means of reaching customers and candidates for jobs.
Major daily newspapers include Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza, Nasz Dziennik, and two tabloids: Fakt and Super Express. Major daily business journals include Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Parkiet Gazeta Gieldy, Puls Biznesu, and Financial Times.
The Polish edition of BusinessWeek is published on a biweekly basis. There are also two English language weeklies that cater mainly to foreigners in Poland, the Warsaw Business Journal, and the Warsaw Voice.
Major international, as well as local, advertising, and public relations agencies abound in Poland.
For contact information on these journals and firms please contact the U.S. Commercial Service in Warsaw at Office.Warsaw@trade.gov, telephone number (+48) 22 625-4374.
The importance of pricing in Poland cannot be overstated. Pricing is the key to successfully selling U.S. products and services in Poland. Working capital is limited in Poland, even among the larger, more successful Polish companies. Polish businesses generally spend money wisely, after thoughtful and sometimes lengthy consideration. The most common reason for failed sales efforts to potential Polish clients continues to be that “the price is too high.” The risks surrounding exchange rate fluctuations can make pricing difficult. Typically, U.S. manufactured goods are compared to similar European-made goods and the lowest cost item wins the day.
Establishing the price of U.S. made products is further complicated by the addition of customs duties, Value Added Tax (VAT), and, in some cases, excise taxes, which may dramatically elevate the final retail price of a product. Flexibility in pricing is important and initial market penetration to gain product awareness among Polish consumers should be the goal. Successful U.S. exporters work together with their Polish representatives to keep costs, particularly import costs, as low as possible. For example, some companies ship products unassembled to help reduce import duties. Poland’s accession to the EU has given the price advantage to European producers. U.S. made goods are burdened with customs duties that products imported from other EU countries do not. To level the playing field, some American businesses have opened distribution and/or manufacturing facilities in Europe.
The Polish market is large and expanding for all types of products but is also increasingly competitive. U.S. companies that approach the market with a long-term view to creating market share for their products will reap the rewards.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Following price, service is the second greatest concern for Polish customers. Polish distributors and customers see U.S. manufacturers as far removed from the products they export to Poland. Potential customers may shy away from U.S. products over concerns that distance will lead to ineffective service if the product requires repair or maintenance.
Polish customers may walk away rather than purchase a product if they are required to ship it back to the United States for repair or service – even if the U.S. company pays for the shipment. Sending spare parts to Poland is easy to do. Some firms provide local service through European representatives or firms licensed to repair their products. Even then, some distributors worry that they may not get adequate support.
Ideally, customer service and support should be provided through a trained Polish representative or a U.S. affiliate company. Local technical support teams should be considered a part of the U.S. company’s image in the Polish market. Effective, fast, and reliable service contributes greatly to the U.S. manufacturer’s success in Poland. The opposite can also be said about service. Therefore, U.S. manufacturers should be ready to provide full assistance to their service personnel in Poland.
U.S manufacturers with major export accounts in Poland may wish to periodically send a service representative to Poland to work with the local representative and visit customers.
Conscious of the discrepancies among member states in product labelling, language use, legal guarantee and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, EU institutions have launched several initiates aimed at harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service and customer support.
Under the 1985 Directive on Liability of Defective Products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in his product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.
The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduced a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU. The legislation is still undergoing review.
Legal Warranties and After-sales Service
Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, revised in 2011, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:
- Repair of the good(s);
- Replacement of the good(s);
- A price reduction; or
- Rescission of the sales contract.
Other issues pertaining to consumers’ rights and protection, such as the New Approach Directives, CE marking, quality control and data protection are dealt with in the Customs, Regulations and Standards section of this report.
Local Professional Services
The legal environment in Poland continues to evolve at a rapid pace and this is expected to continue. In general, Polish law firms follow these changes closely and most provide business counseling in addition to legal advice. Some firms are also experienced in helping their clients find Polish business partners or locate investment projects.
American companies doing business in Poland are urged to obtain legal representation. This is particularly essential when bidding in a public tender, forming a joint venture, untangling a trade dispute, establishing a representative office, and incorporating a business in Poland.
A U.S. exporter new to the Polish market may not initially need specialized legal, accounting, or consulting advice, however, U.S. companies can take comfort in knowing that expert advice by U.S. and Polish law and consulting firms is available in Poland, should a problem arise.
A list of competent professional service providers in Poland is available upon request. Please send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Principal Business Associations
American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Poland
Tel. +48 22 520 5999
The American Chamber of Commerce in Poland (AmCham) is the leading voice for international investors in Poland. It is composed of over 300 companies representing a wide range of sectors, including 80 Fortune 500 companies. Members share the will to build connections and develop the business market in Poland. AmCham is an independent, non-profit business association, and is supported fully by its membership dues and sponsorship agreements. The organization is an accredited affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. and the AmChams in Europe network.
+48 22 55 99 900
Lewiatan is an influential Polish business association representing the interests of Polish businesses in Poland and the European Union. Lewiatan is comprised of approximately 4,100 companies that employ over 1 million people. Confederation Lewiatan is a member of the Social Dialog Council created by the Polish government and has a direct influence on government and legislative actions in Poland. Lewiatan has a representative office in Brussels and is a member of Business Europe – the leading European business organization representing interests of entrepreneurs and businesses in the EU. Many U.S. companies that are present in the Polish market are members of Lewiatan.
Business Center Club
tel. +48 22 625 30 37, + 48 22 582 1001
Business Center Club (BBC) is a prestigious business club and the largest individual entrepreneur organization in Poland. The BBC is made up of more than 2,000 members (individual entrepreneurs and companies) representing various industries, jointly reaching revenue of $50 billion and employing 400,000 people. BCC also includes affiliates’ lawyers, journalists, scientists, publishers, physicians, members of the military and students. BCC concentrates on lobbying activities aimed at furthering the growth of the Polish economy. All Polish Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Ministers have consulted with BCC members. BCC is an international organization with ties to institutions in Europe, the U.S., and Korea.
Polska Rada Biznesu (Polish Business Roundtable)
tel. +48 22 102 66 11
mobile: +48 532 003 335
Polska Rada Biznesu gathers large businesses and employers in Poland and represents them in dealings with government. The association is apolitical, and its members are CEOs of large Polish private enterprises or foreign firms operating in Poland. Polska Rada Biznesu is engaged in many programs promoting entrepreneurship, including organization of the annual Award of the Polish Business Roundtable, one of the most prestigious business awards in Poland.
Pracodawcy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Employers of Poland)
tel. +48 22 518 8700
Employers of Poland is the oldest and the largest employers’ organization in Poland. The organization has accompanied Poland’s political and economic transformation since 1989, representing the interests of entrepreneurs of all industry sectors. Employers of Poland includes 19,000 companies that employ over 5 million employees. An employer of Poland is a member of the Social Dialog Council and has influence on government legal actions. The association accepts companies registered in Poland as their members.
Polski Klub Biznesu (Polish Business Club Association)
The Polish Business Club (PBC) is the oldest independent business organization in Poland gathering private entrepreneurs. The club’s major role is to promote Polish entrepreneurship, businesses, and people. The Polish Business Club is involved in increasing foreign investments in Poland and cooperation with Polonia. PBC is a member of the Club of Europe, and co-organizer of the Polonia World Economic Conferences. The association accepts U.S. company members.
ABSL Association of Business Service Leaders
A leading organization representing business services in Poland, ABSL represents the 200 largest companies active in Poland. The organization sets the standards and direction for growth in the industry, which now employs around 350,000 people. ABSL brings together shared service centers (SSCs), business process outsourcing (BPO), information technology outsourcing (ITO), and research and development (R&D) centers.
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
We are not aware of any limitations on manufacturing or service sectors that prohibit non-Poles from owning or selling these businesses in Poland.