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Does new legislation protect Ukrainian consumers?

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

In early October, the parliament registered a bill on consumer protection, which aims to harmonize Ukrainian "consumer" legislation with European legislation, while improving the quality of consumer protection
11:00, 8 November 2021

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Among other things, the new initiative "in a new way" regulates online commerce and the food sector, which supposedly will allow the consumer to feel protected.

"A year ago, I ordered footwear from a well-known brand on the Internet, paying about 60 USD. At that time, everything seemed transparent to me: a beautiful website, nice consultants, and a kind of" live "product photo. Nevertheless, I was deceived. As a result: minus to the budget and pride," says Olga from Kyiv.

The woman tried to contact the seller at the mobile number indicated on the website. However, scammers traditionally "disappeared from the radar" immediately after receiving payment.

The scam the victim of which was our interlocutor is not new for the 21st century. With the development of Internet technologies, many would-be businessmen moved to the Internet, where it became much more difficult to catch them by hand. So, in the case of Olga, the State Food and Consumer Service, whose responsibilities include protecting consumer rights, could not do anything - the legal address of the "business structure" was not indicated on the fraudulent website. And all the woman had to do was write a statement to the police.

With the adoption of bill No. 6134, the situation should change dramatically. At least that's what the authors of the initiative say. After all, among other things, it regulates e-commerce. And this means that those who like to send bricks by mail instead of the goods bought by the consumer run the risk of paying with their business. But first things first.

We need a new law

The legislation on consumer protection (PPP) that is in force today is, to put it mildly, imperfect. In order to outline the scale of this "imperfection", it is enough to give a simple example: if the meat you bought in one of the supermarkets turns out to be expired, there may not be a refund or exchange of goods for fresh ones. It all depends on the honesty of the seller (fortunately, large networks do not neglect their reputation and go to meet the buyer). And this is within the framework of the law!

According to him, the State Food and Consumer Service does not interfere in disputes between the consumer and the seller - it will not work to write a complaint and prosecute the seller of the delay. Paradoxically, the economic interests of the buyer in 2014 (it was then that the ZPP ceased to concern food) were left out.

The situation is similar with online orders: the current law does not take into account the modern realities and legal relationships associated with online commerce, in particular with e-commerce on marketplaces, the sale of digital products (goods with digital content), etc.

In addition, the law is outdated in the context of the relevant EU Directives. And this is despite the fact that Ukraine undertook the obligation to harmonize its legislation with the European one back in 2014. It took the lawmakers about 7 years to get down to the "consumer" bill.

Spoiler: the harmonization and modernization proposed by the deputies has already become outdated in Europe. And this is one of the reasons why the new bill is not a panacea against the arbitrariness of sellers of goods and service providers in Ukraine.

Fresh "spoonful of honey" for the consumer

If the bill № 6134 is approved by the parliament, several issues important for the consumer will be decided at once. First, the scope of the law will again extend to food products, which means that the economic rights of the buyer will be protected (we are talking about refunds for poor-quality goods or spoiled products, etc.).

Let's go back to the spoiled meat example. Now, if you ask for a refund for an expired product, and the seller "refuses", you can write a complaint to the State Consumer Service (the store will be checked). However, consumers' ability to prove violations by the store will remain limited - the effectiveness of new changes will depend on the work of the state structure.

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Secondly, public organizations will have the right to go to court on violation of the rights of an indefinite circle of consumers without a court fee (today it "costs" about 80 UDS for each case). That is, if a store violates your rights (sells a delayed product or products without documents), you can contact one of the public organizations for consumer protection, and they, in turn, will record the violation and go to court.

Safe online shopping

"Today, everyone who wants to can open an online store in their apartment and sell various goods. Go down, give people the goods right at the entrance or send them by mail - no one will come to you, and, accordingly, there is no responsibility. will overtake," says head of the Consumer Protection Center of Ukraine Serhiy Ponomarenko.

If the bill is adopted, such dealers, in addition to, say, the mobile phone number on the site will be required to indicate the sole proprietorship or LLC, the address or location of the seller, the identification code according to a number of other documents (including the executor of warranty obligations). In the absence of this information on the seller's website, sanctions will be applied to him in the form of a fine in the amount of ten thousand tax-free minimum incomes of citizens (6,500 USD).

If the seller ignores the norms, the State Food Service will have the authority to contact the Internet provider and block the site, marketplace, price aggregator (or part of the software). By introducing such changes to the legislation, the lawmakers intend to solve the problem of pseudo-sellers, which our interlocutor Olga faced, and with her about 33,000 more Ukrainians.

"At the end of 2020, the cyber police received more than 41,000 complaints from citizens, of which more than 80% of the applications related to fraudulent transactions on the Internet. The mentioned innovation, although not fully, will still better protect the rights of online consumers," Oleg Titamir, president of the Ukrainian Organization for the Protection of Consumers of Services, says.

Fast troubleshooting guarantee

In addition, the bill will establish the priority of the client's business rights in consumer conflicts, as well as clear obligations to the seller under warranty obligations for complex products. In simple words, the seller will be obliged to establish clear terms for warranty repair, and when selling complex goods, not only indicate the manufacturer, but also provide information about the legal entity that provides repairs, for example, a TV or telephone. In particular, according to the bill, when repairing goods, the warranty period is extended by the time the goods are being repaired.

One more example. Your recently purchased laptop is broken, and the warranty period has not yet come to an end. You come to a service center or store with a request to repair the device. If you are told that the repair will take more than 14 days, in theory, according to Olena Kulikova, the head of the board of the Spozhyvch Dovira association, you have the right to ask the store to provide you with a similar device from the repair fund (according to current legislation, stores must create such funds) for a while. Nevertheless, stores often do not have such resources, which means that the consumer, having lost his device for a long time, remains dissatisfied.

According to the new bill, if the problem cannot be resolved within 14 days or the solution of the issue requires a longer time, and you do not want to wait, you have the right to either demand a reduction in the price of the product (negotiate with the store), or return the product, or make a replacement product to a similar one.

“On the one hand, the consumer is guaranteed that within 14 days he will solve all his issues, and on the other hand, the store is not obliged to form a repair fund, but must be prepared for such a situation that he will need to make such a replacement. a lighter version of the relationship. I think this is a plus," Olena Kulikova notes.

The text of the new edition also determines that information about the products can be provided to the buyer at his address or by his phone number only on condition that the consumer has given the business entity consent to receive such information - a battle will be declared against email newsletters and aggressive email marketing.

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Legal "backlashes" for manipulation

A number of the provisions of the bill raise questions. For example, the rule according to which the consumer does not have the right to terminate the contract with the seller if the lack of goods is insignificant.

"This concept (lack of goods) is not clearly defined in the document, vague, which creates a backlash for manipulation by unscrupulous business entities, and this creates obvious risks for consumers," says Oleg Titamir, President of the Ukrainian Organization for the Protection of Consumers of Services.

The expert also draws attention to the established terms for refunding funds to the consumer in case of his refusal from the goods - 30 days. According to him, there are also risks for manipulation by sellers, since they can deliberately delay the return period, using consumer funds within a month at their discretion. By the way, this norm is also in the current law.

For example, many shoppers choose risky prepayments with online stores because of the high cost of postage and banking, when money is transferred through the postal operator after receiving the goods (cash on delivery). And the bill does not introduce a legal provision on the mandatory deposit (storage) of consumer funds on a marketplace or bank account with prepayment. At the same time, a number of European Union countries (Germany, Austria), thanks to such a mechanism, protect their consumers from Internet fraudsters.

Many fraudsters indicate invalid data or prepaid numbers (the SIM card can be easily thrown away). In order to prevent this, the Ukrainian Organization for the Protection of Consumers of Services proposed to introduce a mandatory requirement for e-commerce subjects to use only contract or registered numbers of mobile and other phones in contact information and in practice. At the same time, the organization notes: the Ministry of Economy ignored this proposal. As well as a number of other amendments from various experts in the field.

To feel protected, you need to learn your rights.

Related: Ukraine could introduce sale of SIM cards with passport

Representatives of the NGO for the protection of consumer rights note: Ukrainian consumers often do not know what they have rights to and what they do not. For example, a customer accidentally smashes a can of mayonnaise in a supermarket and is forced to pay for the spoiled product. Should he do it - no. Because the price always includes the risks of the store (if this is not outright vandalism), and according to the Constitution, the consumer has the right to a quality product.

Experts emphasize that the consumer must understand: a) a check is the head of everything (in order to prove anything, you must have the main consumer document with which you confirm the fact of entering into a transaction with a business entity), b) defending your rights not concerns compensation.

The new legislation (as well as the current one) will not address the issues of compensation for damage caused to health by poor-quality food. The law gives the right to communicate correctly with a business entity that provides a job, service or product to the consumer, but no more.

That is, you can punish the seller by writing a complaint to the State Consumer Service, but you can obtain additional compensation, for example, in case of poisoning, only through the courts. Or if the seller himself agrees to provide the victim with material compensation.

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The head of the Consumer Protection Center of Ukraine Serhiy Ponomarenko also emphasizes that the consumer should also be aware of how to properly formalize their "rights" on paper. In simple terms, if the complaint to the State Consumer Service does not indicate the seller's data, for example, an individual entrepreneur or an identification code, the check will simply not come to the site (this despite the fact that today the seller has no obligation to indicate such data).

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