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Višnja Rakić, Assistant Minister In The Consumer Protection Sector

The Pandemic Has Changed Consumer Habits

Prior to the pandemic, consumers were sceptical regarding online shopping, but they changed their attitudes during the crisis and adapted to technological progress. The Ministry is working on systemically educating consumers regarding E-commerce

The Law on Consumer Protection, adopted in 2014, prescribes rules modelled on the European law that regulates, among other things, consumer rights when shopping online, as one form of remote trade. A dynamic business environment motivates retailers to fight constantly to retain existing consumers and attract new ones. In which way do they do it? By increasing their level of satisfaction. In that sense, shopping online is recognised as a very comfortable and safe way to shop.

Online shopping has been rising constantly, only to experience mass expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 3.2 million people in Serbia used a computer every day or almost every day in 2020, while 36.1% of internet users bought goods or services online in the third quarter of 2020. Consciousness shifted in all segments of our lives during the pandemic, even when it comes to shopping. Prior to the pandemic, consumers were sceptical regarding online shopping, because goods “cannot be tried”, while questions were raised about online fraud. However, the crisis played its part in ensuring that older generations are also adopting technological progress that is inescapable.

As priorities of the Consumer Protection Strategy for 2019-2024, consumer protection activities in online shopping have been cited. We believe that the systemic education of consumers is key to successful shopping through this form of trade, so plans include the initiating of consumer topics through the school system, in order to create a responsible attitude to shopping in the consumer society from an early age.

The Draft Law on Consumer Protection, which should eliminate challenges identified in the implementation of the 2014 law, will soon find itself in front of MPs

With the 2014 adoption of the Law on Consumer Protection, EU directives regulating policy in the field of consumer protection were implemented. Certain challenges were identified during the implementation of this law, which led to a need to amend regulations, and it was in that sense that the law on consumer protection was drafted, which will enter the legislative procedure in the coming period. Alongside the amending of regulations, we are also awaited by the continuous process of strengthening the administrative capacities of the bodies responsible for consumer protection and market oversight.

Revised rules on eco-design and the energy efficiency of household appliances began being applied in the EU as of 1st March this year. Eco-design and energy efficiency are linked because they provide consumers with information that forms the basis to make rational decisions and gradually increase the market for more energy-efficient products. Regulations governing this matter stipulate deadlines within which manufacturers, importers or authorised retail representatives for these products must make certain spare parts available to authorised repair service providers in the period from, e.g., eight or ten years after the last unit of a given model is placed on the market.

Conditions would thereby be created for products to be repaired and not discarded due to a lack of spare parts. Considering that our country has accepted the obligation to harmonise its regulations with those of the EU, changes to domestic regulations are expected in the coming period, which will have a dual benefit: in environmental terms, through energy savings and waste reduction, but also in terms of financial benefits for consumers.