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When trade inspectors may seize goods

Are trade inspectors entitled to seize a batch of products during an inspection, for as long as it takes to determine whether the products meet applicable quality standards?

Under the Polish Trade Inspection Act, inspectors have various instruments at their disposal for checking product safety when conducting an inspection. They are, for example, authorised to collect product samples for testing, secure evidence, products, premises and vehicles, review files, documents and records, seek opinions from experts, and demand explanations from the party being inspected.
If during the course of an inspection the inspector develops a well-founded suspicion that the quality of a product does not meet requirements set forth in applicable regulations or standards, does not comply with the quality declared by the producer, or is improperly labelled, the inspector may secure the product in order to determine its true quality. “Securing” the product essentially means seizing the product and placing it under official seal. Once the product has been secured, it may be returned to the party undergoing the inspection for storage, often in a specially secured location.
In practical terms, securing a product prevents the business from trading in the product for as long as the security lasts, which will depend on how much time it takes to verify the true quality of the product. Any additional documentation which the business being inspected may be in a position to provide, e.g. compliance certificates issued by the producer, other evidence of product certification, or results from lab testing of the product for compliance with applicable norms, will be relevant for determining the quality and safety of the product. It is therefore in the interests of the business to cooperate closely with the inspector.
If the product quality proves deficient, the inspector will lift the security and issue another decision as necessary to cure the irregularities found or prohibit introduction of the product onto the market.
Sylwia Paszek
This article was originally published on 16 December 2010 as part of the “Commercial Law Academy” series in Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily