Given the frequent need to buy goods and use services, one Law that implements its application daily is the Law that regulates the rights of consumers.
The legal frameworks of consumer-trader relations are set out in the Consumer Protection Law (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 88/2021) – from now on: “Law“.
A natural person who acquires goods or services on the market for purposes not intended for his business or other commercial activities, i.e. the consumer, must also be aware of who is considered a trader under the Law, which is precisely the legal person, entrepreneur or natural person who performs on the market within his business activities or for other commercial purposes, including other persons acting on his behalf or for his account.
Therefore, bearing in mind that the Law broadly defines the notion of the trader and that such a broad definition leads to the application of the Law in various spheres, it is of great importance for the consumer to be aware of the rights that belong to him, taking into account that often the lack of information of the consumer is the basis for violation of the Law by traders.
On the other hand, traders must be aware that violations of the Law on different grounds constitute violations, for which various fines are prescribed, ranging from RSD 50.000,00 to RSD 2.000.000,00.
The first step of protection – The right to conformity
Consumer protection is provided first through the trader’s duty to deliver goods under the contract.
Suppose the consumer believes that the goods do not meet the requirements of conformity (for example, it does not have the properties required particular use for which the consumer obtains them).
In that case, he has the right to require the trader to remove the non-conformity without compensation, primarily by repairing or replacing goods.
If non-conformity cannot be resolved, the consumer has the right to request a corresponding price reduction or termination of the contract and a refund.
The general legal deadline for the request for the removal of non-conformity is two years. If the non-conformity occurs in the first six months, the consumer can choose any of these forms of request.
In practice, cases often occur that the trader, regarding the consumer’s request for the removal of non-conformity, imposes the repair of goods as the only choice, so it is important to draw attention that the Law, in addition to repairing goods, gives the possibility of choosing a replacement of goods, in a situation where non-conformity can be eliminated.
The second step of protection – The right to complaint
The second step in protecting consumers’ rights is the right to complaint.
The consumer submits a complaint when he wants to exercise his rights, i.e. to remove the non-conformity of goods or services, to exercise the rights of the warranty due to the miscalculated price, or to address other deficiencies for which the trader is responsible.
To facilitate this right, it is stipulated that the consumer may declare the complaint verbally at the marketplace where the goods were purchased or elsewhere designated for receipt of complaints, by telephone, in writing, electronically or on a permanent record carrier.
During the complaint, the invoice for the purchase of the goods is submitted or made available for inspection, but other proof of the purchase and/or payment of the goods may also be used.
Therefore, contrary to common practice, the trader cannot condition the receipt of complaints by delivering only an invoice.
Instead of an invoice, the consumer can provide any other proof of purchase, such as a credit card slip, a bank statement of payments from a current account, or any document issued by the trader that accompanied the issuance of goods.
What is also important to mention, which often needs clarification, is that the consumer is not obliged to deliver the product’s original packaging when making a complaint.
The trader’s handling of the complaint
To give consumers more protection, the Law also prescribes the obligation of the trader to receive the complaint by issuing a written confirmation or electronically confirming the receipt of the complaint without delay.
Also, the trader, without delay and within eight days at the latest, must respond to the complaint to the consumer in terms of whether or not he accepts the complaint.
In the event of acceptance of the complaint, the trader will declare the manner and time in which he will resolve the complaint, whereby the deadline for resolving the complaint cannot be longer than 15 days, or 30 days for technical goods and furniture, from the day of the complaint.
On the other hand, if he refuses the advertising, the trader has two obligations:
- to explain its decision;
- to inform the consumer of the possibility of resolving the dispute by out-of-court and competent bodies for the out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes.
Online sales – long-distance contracts
The modern age and lack of time have imposed the need for a growing number of traders and service providers who sell and offer their goods and services online.
For this reason, the Law explicitly regulates this area by protecting consumers in exercising the rights of long-distance contracts and contracts concluded outside business premises solely by using one or more means of long-distance communication until the conclusion of the contract, including the moment of conclusion.
The main convenience that the Law gives consumers when purchasing through electronic communication supplements is the right to waive the contract.
The consumer is entitled to waive the contract within 14 days, without specifying specific reasons and without additional costs, except for the direct cost of returning the goods, unless the trader agrees that he bears them or if he has not previously informed the consumer that the consumer is obliged to pay them.
It is not uncommon for traders who sell their goods online that in their business conditions list different deadlines for returning goods in case of purchase, so it is important to know this basic right that every consumer has when concluding a long-distance contract.
The Law, of course, also prescribes certain logical exceptions to the right to waive the contract, such as:
- The delivery of goods or services whose price depends on changes in the financial market that the trader cannot influence and may arise within the deadline to give up;
- The delivery of goods produced according to special consumer requirements or clearly personalized;
- The delivery of goods that are subject to deterioration of quality or have a short expiration date;
- The delivery of alcoholic beverages whose price was agreed at the time of the conclusion of the sales contract and whose delivery can only be made after 30 days from the day of the conclusion of the contract, and whose actual price depends on changes in the market that the trader cannot influence, etc.