Poland is the 6th largest country among the 25 members of the European Union and has huge potential for the development of electronic commerce. Poland has experienced several years of sustained economic growth with GDP growth in 2007 expected to reach 6.2-6.3%. The Polish government continues to stimulate development of the internet and electronic commerce in its efforts to drive Polish society to 21st century EU standards. Rapid growth of electronic commerce is possible thanks to the development of the country’s technical infrastructure and is seen as a tool to maintain business competitiveness.
The telecommunications and information technology sectors in Poland are open to U.S. companies and offer, in general, the same regulatory environment as traditional European markets, including the CE mark regulatory regime, custom duties and taxes. There are also no barriers to electronic commerce activities in Poland.
The internet in Poland is becoming an important tool for all segments of business activities. Polish companies benefit from dynamic economic development and availability of EU funds. Companies also face favorable conditions for increasing the use of the internet and e-commerce thanks to a rapid development of the infrastructure and decrease of prices for internet access. In addition, Poland’s membership in the European Union exposes local businesses to international competition. Thus, to be competitive, companies tend to increase the use of electronic tools to master their business procedures and minimize cost.
The Polish government first set the stage for the development of e-commerce through its Program to Create Mechanisms and Structures for the Development of Electronic Commerce in Poland in 2003-2006. In July 2007, the Government Council adopted the Broadband Access Development Plan for Information Society Services for 2007-2013, planning to spend almost $0.9 billion on the state IT projects, which are expected to activate the use of electronic communications, including e-commerce activities.
Business-to-business electronic commerce is influenced by the availability of e-government services. In 2007, the government completed an electronic taxes (e-Deklaracje) project, allowing businesses to submit value added tax (VAT) and selected company tax forms. 14 other projects at the central government level are still outstanding. The government is still not ready to accept electronic documents with a qualified e-signature. The implementation of an e-signature project has been rescheduled for May 1, 2008. The electronic platform for public administration services ePUAP should be ready by the end of 2008.
Companies are expected to benefit from recent amendments to the Public Procurement Law, which regulate the use of electronic tools, change the limits for specific procedures and eliminate bottlenecks in specified procedures. Purchases below $19,000 are now exempted from procurement regulations. Electronic auction and bidding can be used in case of procurement for up to $100,000.
While B2B e-commerce keeps developing across all sectors of the Polish economy, it is also enhanced by the opening of new sectors to competition. For example, operations of low-cost airlines and an associated boom for travel services resulted in opening of new specialized portals and boosted e-sales. Other examples abound. The Polish auto parts aftermarket has grown since November 2004, with increasingly large numbers of products sold through the net to businesses as well as directly to consumers. Recently regulations allowed e-sales of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, which resulted not only in a boom in retail e-sales but also added to the B2B turnover for these products.
Granting rights to organize the Euro2012 soccer games in Poland and Ukraine is currently seen as the greatest opportunity in Poland for the development of all kinds of infrastructure, including telecommunications and information technology. It is also expected to create favorable conditions for all segments of e-commerce, supported by enhanced instruments and a variety of electronic payment platforms.
The maintenance of security in internet transactions is of paramount concern to all parties. B2B transactions are hampered by complicated and sometimes inconsistent e-signature regulations which make the use of qualified signatures in private business not practiced. As a result, the private sector has developed alternative security measures used in business transactions, with qualified e-signatures used mainly for e-invoicing. The use of qualified e-signatures is also limited due to delays in e-government projects. The government is considering changes to some provisions for certified e-signatures.
Other regulatory changes currently under discussion, which would boost B2B transactions, concern lowering the limit for cash B2B transactions from $20,000 to approximately $1,500. Businesses involved in e-commerce can benefit from $5.7 billion in EU funds earmarked for information technology and telecommunications projects in Poland during 2007-2013. Funds are available for a variety of programs including internet and e-commerce training, obtaining assistance for planning and implementation of e-business, including hosting services and technical support at the initial stage of business. Depending on applicable programs, funds are disbursed through organizations appointed by the Ministry of Regional Development and Ministry of Economy.
Barriers to the development of B2B e-commerce include security concerns, weak technical infrastructure and some regulatory solutions, not keeping pace with market and technological developments. In addition, e-government services have grown slower than expected and are currently limited mainly to disbursing information.
By Maria Kowalska