WSA Warsaw - II SA/Wa 1635/20

From GDPRhub
Revision as of 08:26, 20 May 2021 by Msm (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
WSA Warsaw - II SA/Wa 1635/20
Courts logo1.png
Court: WSA Warsaw (Poland)
Jurisdiction: Poland
Relevant Law: Article 6(1)(c) GDPR
Article 57(1)(a) GDPR
Article 58(2) GDPR
Article 7 Personal Data Protection Act
Article 61a § 1 KPA (Code of Administrative Procedure)
Decided: 24.03.2021
Published:
Parties:
National Case Number/Name: II SA/Wa 1635/20
European Case Law Identifier:
Appeal from:
Appeal to:
Original Language(s): Polish Polish
Original Source: Centralna Baza Orzeczeń Sądów Administracyjnych (in Polish) Centralna Baza Orzeczeń Sądów Administracyjnych (in Polish)
Initial Contributor: Agnieszka Rapcewicz

The Provincial Administrative Court of Warsaw held that the DPA seriously breached the legality principle when refusing to initiate administrative proceedings regarding the collection of personal data by the Polish Post in connection with the planned postal elections.

English Summary[edit | edit source]

Facts[edit | edit source]

In April 2020 a data subject lodged with the Office for Personal Data Protection a complaint against unlawful processing of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. (Polish Post). In his complaint, the complainant referred to reports that the Polish Post had submitted an electronic request to the Ministry of Digitalisation to transfer his personal data. The complainant indicated that, to the best of his knowledge, in responding to the above request the Ministry issued the data covered by the request to the operator.

In these circumstances, the complainant requested the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection to require from the controller to cease the processing and delete his personal data by the Polish Post. The complainant also mentioned that Poczta Polska S.A., as a postal operator, may receive personal data on condition that they are necessary for the performance of tasks connected with the organisation of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland or performance of other duties imposed by government authorities. However, as the complainant pointed out, none of the above prerequisites had been fulfilled because the Act introducing the obligation of voting by post was still not a binding law due to the unfinished legislative process. The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection refused to initiate proceedings. The data subject filed a complaint with the Provincial Administrative Court.

Dispute[edit | edit source]

Was the acquisition of personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. legal?

Holding[edit | edit source]

The Court revoked the appealed decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection and found that the supervisory authority, by issuing the disputed decision, committed a breach of administrative procedure, which had a significant impact on the outcome of the case. The Court pointed out that the DPA incorrectly decided that there were grounds to refuse to initiate administrative proceedings on account of the alleged lack of subject-matter of the proceedings.

Comment[edit | edit source]

Share your comments here!

Further Resources[edit | edit source]

Share blogs or news articles here!

English Machine Translation of the Decision[edit | edit source]

The decision below is a machine translation of the Polish original. Please refer to the Polish original for more details.

SENTENCE
The Wojewódzki Sąd Administracyjny w Warszawie, in the following composition: Presiding Judge of the Voivodship Administrative Court Piotr Borowiecki (spr.), Judge of the Voivodship Administrative Court Danuta Kania, Judge of the Voivodship Administrative Court Andrzej Kołodziej, having examined, under a simplified procedure on 24 March 2021, a case concerning a complaint by M. M. against the decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection of [...] July 2020 No. [...] on refusal to institute proceedings 1. revokes the appealed decision, 2. awards the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection in favour of the complainant M. M. the amount of PLN 100 (in words: one hundred zlotys) by way of reimbursement of procedural costs.

STATEMENT OF REASONS
By contested decision of [...] July 2020, No [...], the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection (hereinafter also: 'the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection' or 'the supervisory authority'), acting pursuant to Article 61a(1) of the Act of 14 June 1960 on the - Code of Administrative Procedure (consolidated text of the Journal of Laws of 2020, item 256 as amended - hereinafter: "the Code of Administrative Procedure") in connection with Article 7 of the Act of 10 May 2018 on the Protection of Personal Data (consolidated text of the Journal of Laws of 2019, item 1781 - hereinafter also: "the APSD"), having examined the complaint of M. M. (hereinafter also: "the complainant" or "the complainant") concerning the processing of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. with its registered office in [...] - refused to initiate proceedings.

The appealed decision was issued in the following factual situation.

On [...] April 2020 M. M. lodged with the Office for Personal Data Protection a complaint against unlawful processing of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. with its registered office in [...].

In the content of the complaint, the complainant stated that in connection with the reports appearing that, on [...] April 2020 Poczta Polska S.A. made an electronic request to the Ministry of Digitalisation for the transfer of personal data. The complainant indicated that, to the best of his knowledge, when responding to the above request of Poczta Polska S.A., the Systems Management Department of the Ministry of Digitalisation, referring to the disposition of Article 99 of the Act of 16 April 2020 on specific support instruments in connection with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 695 - hereinafter also: the "SARS Act"), on [...] April 2020 issued the data covered by the request to the operator. In these circumstances, the complainant requested the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection to require the controller to cease the processing and deletion of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. The complainant also mentioned that Poczta Polska S.A., as a postal operator, may receive personal data on condition that they are necessary for the performance of tasks connected with the organisation of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland or performance of other duties imposed by government authorities. However, as the complainant pointed out, none of the above prerequisites has been fulfilled as of today because the Act introducing the obligation of voting by post is still not a binding law due to the unfinished legislative process.

Following the above complaint, the supervisory authority undertook an investigation into irregularities in the processing of the complainant M.'s personal data. M..

The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection first of all requested clarification from the Minister of Digitalisation in a letter dated [...] May 2020.

From the letter of the Minister of Digitisation of [...] May 2020, No. [...], addressed to the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection, it appears that the data from the PESEL register were transferred to Poczta Polska S.A in connection with the implementation of the COVID-19 countermeasures consisting in undertaking and implementing the necessary actions aimed at preparing the conduct of the 2020 election of the President of the Republic of Poland by correspondence, in connection with the decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020, No. [...]. The Minister's explanations indicated that the aforementioned decision of [...] April 2020, issued on the basis of Article 11(2) in conjunction with Article 11(2a) and (3) of the Act of 2 March 2020 on specific solutions related to preventing, counteracting and combating COVID-19, other infectious diseases and crisis situations caused by them (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 374 - hereinafter also referred to as the "COVID Act"), the Prime Minister instructed Poczta Polska S.A. to carry out activities in the field of counteracting COVID-19, consisting of undertaking and implementing the necessary activities aimed at preparing the conduct of the general election for the President of the Republic of Poland in 2020 by correspondence, in particular by preparing the organisational structure, ensuring the necessary infrastructure and acquiring the necessary material and human resources.

The findings of the supervisory authority also indicated that in the motion of [...] April 2020, no. [...], Poczta Polska S.A. - referring to Article 99 of the Act of 16 April 2020 on special support instruments in connection with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus - requested the Minister of Digitalisation to provide, in an electronic form, data from the PESEL register in the scope of the last (current or last not current, if a person does not have a current one) address of registration for permanent residence and address of registration for temporary residence and the date of expiry of the declared period of residence, first name, middle name, surname and PESEL number. In the motion in question Poczta Polska S.A. indicated that the data received from the PESEL database will be linked by Poczta Polska S.A. with registers of electors from municipalities and in case of lack of indication by municipalities of addresses to which the election packages should be delivered Poczta Polska S.A. will use the data from the PESEL database. The effect of this combination, as indicated by the postal operator, will be the construction of the most up-to-date database of voters' addresses for delivery of election packages on the basis of data from the municipalities and the PESEL database. At the same time, Poczta Polska S.A. stated that the aforementioned data is necessary and will be used solely for the purpose of performing the tasks related to the organisation of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland, and after the purpose has been fulfilled, it will be removed from the operator's data communication system.

The supervisory authority also established that by the decision of the President of the Office of Electronic Communications of [...] June 2015, No. [...], Poczta Polska S.A. entered into the Register of Entrepreneurs under KRS No. [...], NIP: [...] and entered into the register of postal operators kept by the President of the Office of Electronic Communications under No. B-00106 - was selected as the designated operator to provide universal services for the years 2016-2025.

In view of the findings indicated above in connection with the complaint of M. M. concerning the processing of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. with its registered office in [...], the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection, acting pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure in conjunction with Article 7 of the APSI, by way of the decision of [...] July 2020, No. [...], refused to initiate proceedings.

In the justification of the decision, the President of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OPAI), referring to the wording of Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, Article 99 of the SARS Act, Article 11(3) of the COVID Act, went on to assess the findings in the light of European law.

The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection indicated that from Article 6(1)(c) of the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (OJ EU.L.2016 .119.1 and OJ.EU.L.2018.127.2 - hereinafter also referred to as "RODO"), it follows that the processing of personal data is lawful when it is necessary for the fulfilment of a legal obligation incumbent on the controller.

The supervisory authority noted that it follows from Article 99 of the SARS Act that a postal operator is entitled to obtain from a public administration authority the personal data indicated by the above-mentioned legal provision if one of two independent prerequisites occurs. In the first case, as indicated by the supervisory authority, providing access to data is possible if the data is necessary for the performance of tasks related to the organisation of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland. Whereas, as the supervisory authority indicated, in the second case the disclosure of data is possible if the data is necessary for the performance of other duties imposed by the government administration bodies.

The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection stated that due to the decision of the President of the Council of Ministers of [...] April 2020, existing in the legal system at the time of transferring the personal data from the PESEL register, imposing on Poczta Polska S.A. an obligation referred to in Article 99 of the SARS Act, the performance of which requires obtaining personal data by a postal operator, it should be recognised that there was a legal basis to make the data available to the postal operator.

In this situation, the supervisory authority considered that the acquisition of personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. was therefore based on the above-mentioned provisions of Article 6.1.c of the RODO in conjunction with Article 99 of the SARS Act.

In turn, referring to Article 57(1)(a) of RODO, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection pointed out that without prejudice to other tasks defined under GDPR, each supervisory authority within its territory monitors and enforces the application of the Regulation.

The President of UODO further noted that the remedial powers available to him, as a supervisory authority, in the event of a finding of a breach of the provisions of the GDPR, are provided for in Article 58(2)(a) to (j) of the GDPR.

At the same time, the supervisory authority pointed out that pursuant to Article 1(2)(5) of the Act of 10 May 2018 on the protection of personal data, the Act sets out the proceedings for infringements of the provisions on the protection of personal data. Referring to Article 60 of the Act on personal data protection, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection indicated that he conducts proceedings for infringement of the provisions on personal data protection, and therefore the subject matter of the proceedings before the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection is "infringement of the provisions on personal data protection" (cf. Personal Data Protection Act. Commentary, ed. by Dominik Lubasz, WKP 2019).

In view of the above, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection pointed out that the proceedings conducted by the supervisory authority aim at determining whether there has been a breach of the provisions on personal data protection in the case, and if so, to exercise the remedial powers referred to in Article 58 paragraph 2 of the GDPR.

The President of the Office for Personal data Protection took the position that in the present proceedings the applicant's questioned disclosure of his personal data by the Ministry of Digitalisation to Poczta Polska S.A. results from the performance by these entities of their obligation unambiguously defined by law.

In this situation, the supervisory authority concluded that the disputed processing of the complainant's personal data is therefore based on the aforementioned provision of Article 6(1)(c) of GDPR.

Thus, the supervisory body indicated that in the present proceedings the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection has no grounds for ascertaining an infringement of the provisions on personal data protection, which means that the initiation of the proceedings aimed at the possible exercise by the supervisory body of its remedial powers provided for in Article 58(2) of the RODO Act is pointless in the meaning of Article 105(1) of the Code of Administrative Procedure because the infringement in question does not occur.

The supervisory authority, referring to the provision of Article 105 § 1 of Kodeks Postępowania Administracyjnego(the Code of Administrative Proceedings), noted that if, for any reason, the proceedings have become wholly or partially pointless, the public administration body shall issue a decision on discontinuance of the proceedings in whole or in part, respectively. In turn, referring to the position expressed in the justification of the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Gdańsk of 21 November 2012, ref. no. I SA/Gd 1009/12, LEX no. 1232079, the supervising authority stated that the fact that the application submitted was devoid of purpose meets the disposition of Article 61a § 1 of Kodeks Postępowania Proceedings (the Code of Administrative Procedure), which constitutes a justified reason for inability to initiate the proceedings.

The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection (the "Office") further indicated that the above position of the supervisory authority coincides with the position of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw, expressed in the ruling of 29 January 2020, Case No. II SA/Wa 2022/19, in which the Court revoked the appealed decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection and discontinued the administrative proceedings in the case due to lack of breach of the provisions on personal data protection as irrelevant, stating that since the complained entity processed personal data in order to comply with the legal obligation imposed on it (Article 6(1)(c) of GDPR), there were no grounds to issue a reminder due to the breach of provisions on personal data processing (Article 58(2)(b) of GDPR).

Summing up, the President of the Office for PErsonal Data Protection stated that there were no legal and factual grounds to initiate and conduct proceedings by the supervisory authority in the case in question, which gave grounds to refuse to initiate proceedings pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure.

In a letter dated [...] July 2020, the complainant M. M., acting through the agency of the supervisory authority, filed a complaint with the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw against the above decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection of [...] July 2020.

Applying for the annulment of the appealed decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection, the complainant indicated in the justification that it is therefore undisputed that the subject matter of the decision of the President of the Council of Ministers of [...] April 2020 are tasks related to the "organisation of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland". The applicant noted that the decision does not impose on Poczta Polska S.A. "other duties" than organising those elections and, therefore, the provision of Article 99 of the Act of 16 April 2020 does not give Poczta Polska S.A. the authority to receive data from the electoral register in order to perform its duties under that decision. In these circumstances, the applicant therefore considered that the decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020, in view of its subject matter, could not form the basis for an application under Article 99 of the Act of 16 April 2020.

Notwithstanding the above, the complainant considered that the said decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020 was issued in breach of the provisions of law, for - firstly, the Prime Minister, in issuing the decision in question, breached Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, since from the provisions of Article 11(1) and (2) of the Act of 2 March 2020 on special solutions connected with preventing, counteracting and combating COVID-19, other infectious diseases and crisis situations caused by them, in the wording in force on the date of the decision, implied that the exclusive competence to issue instructions to state legal persons listed in Article 11(1) of the cited Act was held by the voivode. According to the complainant, this means that the Prime Minister was not competent to issue the decision of [...] April 2020 in relation to Poczta Polska S.A. Secondly, as the applicant pointed out, the said decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020 concerns the "preparation of the holding of the election of the President of the Republic of Poland in 2020 by correspondence" and on the date of issuance of this decision no provisions were in force under which the election of the President of the Republic of Poland in 2020 was to be held by correspondence.

In view of the above, the applicant alleged that, in the light of the above-mentioned generally applicable provisions, the decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020, [...], violates Article 127(7) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. Consequently, the complainant stated that the Prime Minister, by instructing Poczta Polska S.A. to prepare for the holding of elections by correspondence in a situation where such a procedure is not provided for by any legislative act, independently regulated in the decision a matter reserved by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland for statutory regulations.

In the applicant's opinion, the decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020 should therefore be regarded as unlawful both in terms of formal competence to issue the decision and in terms of its substance, as it independently regulated the matter that was reserved for the exclusive competence of the legislator.

Nevertheless, the complainant emphasised that even if the decision of the President of the Council of Ministers of [...] April 2020 had been issued by a body authorised to do so and if the provisions enabling the holding of elections by correspondence had been in force, it still - due to its subject matter - could not constitute the basis for lodging by Poczta Polska S.A. an effective application under Article 99 of the Act of 16 April 2020 on special support instruments in connection with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In his reply to the complaint, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection requested that the complaint be dismissed, upholding his previous position expressed in the justification of the contested decision.

The President of the Office for Personal Data Protection stated that in view of the decision of the Prime Minister of [...] April 2020, existing in legal proceedings at the time of transferring personal data from the PESEL register, imposing on Poczta Polska S.A. an obligation referred to in Article 99 of the SARS Act, for the performance of which it is necessary to obtain personal data from the postal operator, it should be concluded that there was a legal basis to make the data available to the postal operator. In this situation, the supervisory authority considered that the acquisition of personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. was therefore based on the provision of Article 6.1.c of the GDPR in conjunction with Article 99 of the SARS Act.

Consequently, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection stated that the questioned by the complainant access to his personal data by the Ministry of Digitalisation for the benefit of Poczta Polska S.A. results from the performance by both above-mentioned entities of an obligation unambiguously defined in the provisions of the law.

Considering the above, the supervisory body concluded that if the disputed processing of personal data is based on Article 6(1)(c) of the GDPR, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection has no grounds to ascertain the infringement of provisions on the protection of personal data in the present proceedings, which means that the initiation of proceedings aimed at possible exercise of remedial rights by the supervisory body, as provided for in Article 58(2) of the GDPR, is pointless in the meaning of Article 105(1) of the Code of Administrative Procedure because the infringement in question does not occur. This, in turn, results, in the opinion of the supervisory body, in legitimacy of issuing the disputed decision pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure.

The Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw stated as follows.

Pursuant to Article 1 § 1 and 2 of the Act of 25 July 2002. - Law on the system of administrative courts (consolidated text in Journal of Laws of 2021, item 137), administrative courts exercise the administration of justice by controlling public administration activities, whereas this control is exercised in terms of compliance with the law, unless the acts provide otherwise.

In the light of the provisions of the above-cited act, the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw, within the scope of its jurisdiction, assesses the challenged administrative decision, ruling or other act or activity within the scope of public administration regarding entitlements or obligations arising from the provisions of law, from the point of view of its compliance with the substantive law and the provisions of administrative proceedings, according to the factual and legal status prevailing on the date of issuing the act or taking the disputed activity. Thus, this is a control of acts or actions within the scope of public administration performed exclusively from the point of view of their compliance with the substantive law and procedural provisions, and not according to the criteria of equity or compliance with the principles of social life.

Moreover, what needs to be emphasised, the Court decides within the limits of a given case, not being, however, bound by charges and motions of the complaint and the invoked legal basis (vide: art. 134 § 1 of the Act of 30 August 2002. - Law on proceedings before administrative courts - uniform text Dz. U. of 2019, item 2325, hereinafter also: "P.p.s.a.").

At the same time, it should be clearly noted that since the entry into force of the Accession Treaty of 16 April 2003. (Journal of Laws of 2004 No. 90, item 864), on the strength of which Poland became a Member State of the European Union, the administrative court's control also covers the compliance of the decisions of public administration bodies with European law (European Union law), understood as the entire body of European Union law (acquis communautaire), including general principles of European law, interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the European Union.

In this situation, the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw, when assessing the legality of the appealed decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection of [...] July 2020, was obliged to examine its compliance, first of all, with the provisions of European law, including, in particular, with the regulations contained in the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation - also referred to as "RODO").

In the opinion of the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw, the complaint of Mr M. deserves to be examined in this respect because the contested decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection of [...] July 2020 refusing to initiate proceedings in the case of unlawful processing of the applicant's personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. - infringes the applicable provisions of law in a material manner.

The Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw found, first of all, that the supervisory authority, by issuing the disputed decision, committed a breach of administrative procedure, in particular of Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, which had a significant impact on the outcome of the case.

The Court held that the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection when examining Mr M. M.'s complaint on the unlawful processing of his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. on [...] July 2020, incorrectly decided that there were grounds to refuse to institute administrative proceedings pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure on account of the alleged lack of subject-matter of the proceedings within the meaning of Article 105 § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure.

By the same token, the Court found that the supervising authority, by issuing the disputed decision on the refusal to institute administrative proceedings - committed in this respect a serious breach of the principle of legality expressed in Article 6 of the Code of Administrative Procedure and Article 7 in principio of the Code of Administrative Procedure as well as Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

Turning to legal considerations, it should be noted that pursuant to Article 61 § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, administrative proceedings are initiated at the request of a party or ex officio.

The disputed decision of the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection of [...] July 2020 was issued pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, pursuant to which, if the request referred to in Article 61 of the Code of Administrative Procedure was submitted by a person who is not a party or if the proceedings cannot be initiated for other justified reasons, the public administration body shall issue a decision refusing to initiate the proceedings.

As it results from the content of the provision cited above, the legislator introduced therein two independent and autonomous premises for issuing a decision on refusal to initiate proceedings.

The purpose of introducing this amendment was to distinguish preliminary proceedings consisting in the initiation or refusal to initiate administrative proceedings from proper proceedings that end with resolving the case as to its merits by issuing an administrative decision. In the intention of the legislator, such a solution distinguishes, in a more comprehensible manner for applicants, the preliminary stage concerning the initiation or refusal to initiate proceedings from the stage of substantive resolution of the application (see, inter alia, the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 30 January 2015, ref. II OSK 1575/13, available at https://orzeczenia.nsa.gov.pl).

At the same time, in the doctrine and judicial-administrative judicature it is indicated that the regulation of Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, i.e. refusal to initiate proceedings "for other justified reasons" is applied to situations which clearly constitute an obstacle to initiate proceedings, e.g:

(a) when administrative proceedings are already pending in the same case or a decision has already been made in such a case;

b) there is no substantive legal basis in law for considering the request in an administrative procedure (see, e.g. judgment of the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 5 February 2013, ref. no. VII SA/Wa 1163/12, available at https://www.orzeczenia.nsa.gov.pl);
c) substantive limitation, i.e. expiry of the period after which an individual may not claim an entitlement (cf. B. Adamiak, J. Borkowski, Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego. Komentarz, Wydawnictwo C.H. Beck, Warszawa 2011, p. 298);

(d) the case has already been decided previously; when the request to initiate proceedings relates to a situation the legality of which was controlled by an administrative court, but the complaint was dismissed (so inter alia /in:/ judgment of the Provincial Administrative Court in Poznań of 3 December 2015, ref. II SA/Po 826/15, https://orzeczenia.nsa.gov.pl).

It follows from the above that the existence of an "obstacle" preventing the initiation and conduct of proceedings must be obvious, i.e. such, the determination and indication of which does not require the conduct of explanatory proceedings by the authority (cf. inter alia the judgment of the WSA in Gdańsk of 15 May 2019, ref. no. II SA/Gd 45/19, LEX no. 2676387). This is because the decision on refusal to initiate proceedings is a formal decision, and not a substantive one (it does not resolve the case as to its merits), which leads to the conclusion that in the decision issued pursuant to Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure the authority may not formulate conclusions and assessments concerning the merits of the request (cf. judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 8 March 2017, ref. no. II OSK 2600/16; similarly: the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 28 April 2020, ref. no. I OSK 135/19; both judgments of the Supreme Administrative Court available at https://www.orzeczenia.nsa.gov.pl).

Transferring the above remarks to the situation of the present case, it should be indicated that the complainant in his complaint of [...] April 2020 argued that there were no legal grounds for obtaining and processing his personal data by Poczta Polska S.A. from the PESEL database. Consequently, the complainant requested the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection, as the supervisory authority, to impose an obligation on the postal operator to cease the processing of his personal data, as well as to delete them by the aforementioned data controller.

Before issuing the appealed decision, the supervisory authority included in the case file evidence in the form of a decision of the President of the Council of Ministers of [...] April 2020, No. [...], a letter of the Minister of Digitisation of [...] May 2020, No. [...] addressed to the President of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, as well as a letter of Poczta Polska S.A. of [...] April 2020, No. [...] addressed to the Ministry of Digitisation. Moreover, in the contested decision, the supervisory authority referred to these documents, invoked the provisions of the COVID Act and the SARS Act, and consequently concluded that the processing of the applicant's personal data was based on Article 6(1)(c) of the RODO, which means that there are no grounds for applying Article 58(2) of the GDPR.

In this situation, it should be noted that the supervisory authority de facto examined the case on its merits and, recognizing the party's request as unfounded (due to the fact that "(...) there was a legal basis to provide access to personal data to the postal operator"), issued a decision refusing to initiate administrative proceedings in this case.

Thus, there is no doubt that the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection made a substantive assessment of the applicant's request in the form of a procedural decision. The 'substantive' and not strictly 'formal' nature of the decision is confirmed both by the arguments presented in the justification for the decision and by the content of the appellant's complaint to the Court, in which the appellant challenges the decision on the merits.

In fact, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection initiated administrative proceedings in this case, gathered evidence, analyzed it, and then closed the proceedings by way of the decision of [...] July 2020 refusing to initiate proceedings on the grounds that the request constituting the subject matter of the application was not well-founded.

Consequently, it should be recognised that the appealed decision was issued in violation of Article 61a § 1 of Kodeks Postępowania Administracyjnego (the Code of Administrative Procedure) and this violation, in the opinion of the Court, had a significant impact on the outcome of the case.

In this situation, since the action of the supervisory body evidently did not meet the conditions necessary to apply the institution provided for by the legislator in Article 61a § 1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, this constituted grounds to eliminate the appealed decision issued on [...] July 2020 by the President of the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection from legal proceedings.

The supervisory authority, when reconsidering the case, will be obliged to take the above legal assessment into account, at the same time taking into account the content of Article 104 § 1 and § 2 of the Code of Administrative Procedure in conjunction with Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Act on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which provisions determine the form of settling an administrative case.

Taking the above into account, the Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw, acting pursuant to Article 145 § 1 point 1 letter c of the Code of Administrative Procedure - ruled as in item. 1 of the operative part of the judgment.

At the same time awarding the amount of PLN 100 against the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection in favour of the appellant as reimbursement of the costs of the court proceedings, the Court acted pursuant to the provisions of Article 200 in conjunction with Article 209 of the Code of Administrative Procedure.