EC sues Poland for advertising ban on pharmacies

Wojciech Olkuśnik/PAP

The European Commission (EC) has decided to refer Poland to EU's top court for not allowing pharmacies to advertise.

According to the EC, which brought the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Friday, Polish law infringes the EU's E-Commerce Directive.

Under Polish law, pharmacies can only provide information to the public concerning their location and opening hours. Consequently, they cannot use the internet or other electronic and non-electronic means for commercial communication.

Under the E-commerce Directive, members of a regulated profession such as pharmacists should be able to use information society services to promote their activities. Both the E-commerce Directive and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) must be interpreted as precluding national legislation from imposing a general and absolute prohibition of advertising of pharmacies and their activities. This position is supported by the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The EC believes that Polish law is an infringement of the E-Commerce Directive as well as Article 49 and Article 56 of TFEU, as a total ban is not justified and is not proportionate when it comes to the interest of public health.

While some necessary restrictions can be left in place to prevent marketing practices that could have a negative impact on public health, a total ban on advertising hampers market competitiveness and is an obstacle to the development and promotion of modern services that directly benefit patients, the EC said.

The EC initially sent a letter of formal notice to Poland in January 2019, followed by a reasoned opinion in July 2020. Since the EC believes that Poland continues to breach EU regulations, it has decided to refer the case to the CJEU.

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