Embracing EU Consumer Protection Regulations: Challenges and Opportunities for Serbian Producers

Straightening the Consumer Protection

The European Parliament recently approved amendments to the proposal for a Directive that aims to enhance consumer protection and promote sustainable practices. These changes will require domestic producers to adapt to new regulations established by the European Union (EU) in the realm of consumer protection.

The amendments, which harmonize the regulations for products from non-EU countries with the EU’s new rules, introduce several significant changes. One of the key changes is the prohibition of programmed device failure, meaning that products should not be designed to break down after a certain period. The amendments also aim to extend the service life of products and implement stricter “green” labels for manufactured devices.

The primary objective of these amendments is to strengthen consumer protection during the transition towards a greener economy. By reducing waste resulting from excessive consumption and the premature disposal of products, the focus shifts towards repairing existing items, expanding service networks, and providing adequate information about repair options.

These changes specifically target elements that artificially limit the lifespan of products, stimulating consumers to replace them before their expected longevity. Manufacturers will be required to market products that are compatible with consumables, spare parts, and accessories provided by other manufacturers. If a product cannot be repaired, customers must be informed of this limitation before purchase. Transparency regarding the availability of spare parts, software updates, and the possibility of repairs by independent experts should also be provided.

Although Serbia is not an EU member, the country is obligated to align its national legislation with EU standards, including consumer protection regulations, as part of the accession process. The elimination of unfair business practices from the domestic market will depend on the implementation of the new rules and the harmonization of national legislation. Given the complexity of the legislative process, which involves adopting new laws, regulations, and building institutional capacities for implementation and supervision, it will require a considerable amount of time.

While Serbia has taken steps towards harmonizing its legislation with European standards in the context of EU accession, further efforts and cooperation with relevant institutions are necessary to strengthen consumer protection in the country. The Law on Consumer Protection, enacted in 2021, is expected to be amended to introduce collective action as part of the harmonization process with EU consumer protection standards.

The new EU regulation has significant implications for domestic producers and traders seeking to enter the EU market. Adapting to the new standards and requirements, including implementing new technologies, production and management processes, and obtaining appropriate certificates, will be essential for them. However, if domestic producers and traders adapt effectively, it can enhance confidence in their products, leading to increased demand and a better market reputation.

To make the most of the advantages and overcome the challenges posed by the new regulations, domestic producers and traders should familiarize themselves with the regulations in a timely manner, improve their production processes, quality, and innovation, and develop efficient marketing strategies. Establishing collaboration with relevant institutions, business associations, and experts who can provide support is also crucial.

Apart from manufacturers and retailers, the domestic regulations themselves will also need to be aligned with the changes. The Law on Consumer Protection, despite being relatively new, should be subject to further improvements to ensure greater efficiency and fairness in consumer protection. Strengthening the role of competent institutions for consumer protection and enabling access to legal remedies through collective lawsuits are also important aspects.

By enhancing consumer protection and rights through these measures, consumer confidence in the market and economic entities will increase. Consumers who trust that their rights will be safeguarded are more motivated to engage in transactions and utilize services, fostering market stability and growth. Additionally, satisfied consumers often become loyal customers and recommend products and services to others.