Polish insurance law is contained mainly in four statutes:
- the Civil Code;
- the Insurance Activity Act
- the Compulsory Insurance Act; and
- the Insurance Intermediation Act.
The Civil Code regulates details of insurance contracts. Art. 805 of the Civil Code provides that a contract of insurance is a contract in which an insurer undertakes - in the course of its business activity - to provide the other party with a benefit (not necessarily pecuniary) if a certain event occurs, in return for a premium. The event has to be independent from both parties.
There are two types of insurance contracts: so-called property insurance and so-called personal insurance. The former comprises insurance contracts concerning property. The latter comprises life insurance, health insurance and personal injury insurance.
ENTITIES AUTHORISED TO CONDUCT INSURANCE ACTIVITY IN POLAND
There are four types of entities authorised to conduct insurance activity in Poland:
1. Insurance companies;
2. Main branches of foreign insurance companies (based in non-EU countries);
3. Branches of insurance companies (based in EU); and
4. Foreign EU-based insurance companies providing services from abroad under the freedom to provide services rule.
Under the Insurance Activity Act, life insurance contracts can be offered exclusively by life insurance companies. All the other insurance contracts (including property insurance, health insurance and personal injury insurance) can be offered only by so-called property insurance companies. No insurance company can underwrite both life and property insurance.
Main Branches (of non-EU insurance companies)
Foreign insurance companies may establish in Poland so-called main branches. However, it requires obtaining a licence in Poland.
Branches (of EU-based insurance companies)
These are organisational units of foreign insurance companies. They have a seat in Poland and a person appointed as a representative of the insurance company in the branch. Establishment of a branch does not require obtaining a licence in Poland - it involves only a notification procedure.
Freedom to provide services
Since Poland became a member of the EU in 2004, foreign EU-based insurance companies can undertake insurance activity in Poland under the freedom to provide services rule. They do not even have to establish a branch in Poland (if they meet certain criteria). If they decide to establish a branch in Poland, it is far easier than it is for insurance companies from countries that are not members of the EU.
This rule applies even to companies offering compulsory insurance - there are already several EU-based insurance companies selling them in Poland from abroad. Either with or without establishing a branch.
Companies may conduct reinsurance activity in Poland either as reinsurance companies or as insurance and reinsurance companies. Provisions concerning those companies are similar to those concerning insurance companies. There are, however, certain differences.
The Insurance Intermediation Act provides that there are two kinds of insurance intermediaries: insurance agents and insurance brokers. The former act in the name and on behalf of insurance companies under a power of attorney. The latter act in the name of the policyholders and future policyholders - they cannot have any contractual relationship with insurance companies (except for "umowa kurtażowa" - a contract providing for broker's remuneration for administration services connected with insurance contracts). Both agents and brokers have to be entered into the register of insurance intermediaries kept by Komisja Nadzoru Finansowego (the Financial Supervision Commission).
EU-based insurance intermediaries can undertake activity in Poland from abroad, once they are entered into the above-mentioned register.
Please note that the above information is very general. Since Polish law introduces many exceptions to general rules, the above statements cannot be considered as a legal advice. In order to provide such advice, a lawyer would have to thoroughly examine each case.
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