25 Aug 2022

Consumer protection disputes – have the long-awaited changes arrived?

For many individuals, consumer rights amount to an everyday battle. With the latest amendments to regulations, out-of-court dispute resolution are increasingly becoming a viable option. Suppose a consumer is not satisfied with the outcome of a settlement of a complaint filed with a merchant. The consumer dispute can be resolved out of court with the help of a third party who, according to the Consumer Protection Act (“Act”), must be: neutral, independent and impartial.

As part of Serbia’s digitalization efforts, a platform has been established to satisfy these needs. What is it all about?

The IT platform for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes offers consumers the opportunity to quickly and easily submit a request for an out-of-court settlement of a consumer dispute online in an efficient and fast manner. The procedure is designed to resolve various consumer disputes, regardless of the type and.

Bodies for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes are registered in the List of bodies for the out-of-court settlement of disputes according to the Law on Consumer Protection maintained by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (“Ministry“) and must meet certain conditions to be entered on the List. In addition to this List, the Ministry also manages an IT platform.

To exercise their rights, there are mandatory rules and procedures that the consumer must follow. First, it is necessary that before submitting a request for out-of-court settlement of a dispute, the consumer should first contact the merchant and file a complaint. If the merchant rejects the complaint without grounds and contrary to the Act, the procedure for out-of-court settlement of the dispute may be initiated by filing a request for out-of-court dispute settlement.

The Ministry forwards the proposal to the body for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes closest to the place of residence of the consumer, or the body that the Ministry estimates will solve the procedure most efficiently. The body for the out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes decides on the proposal within 15 days from the day of receipt of the proposal, and the merchant is obliged to take part in the procedure for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes. The out-of-court dispute resolution procedure ends with a recommendation on how to resolve a consumer dispute, a conclusion of an agreement on dispute resolution, or a decision to suspend the procedure because a settlement is unlikely..

All the above was passed by the Ministry in the interest of efficient consumer rights protection. Everyday implementation should indicate best practices and areas of improvement.