Last year, the institution of the ombudsman for consumer protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina received a record number of consumer complaints, and complaints about online shopping and fraud are becoming more frequent.
In the past year 2023, the Institution of Ombudsman for Consumer Protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina received a little less than 1,400 complaints, which represents the largest number of complaints received since the establishment of the Institution. Compared to a year earlier, i.e. In 2022, 10 percent more complaints were received, it was confirmed from this institution.
Complaints mostly in equal proportions related to complaints in the electricity supply, garbage collection, water supply, and heating services sectors, and these sectors account for 30 percent of complaints.
Complaints in the telecommunications sector (services for changing business conditions, prices, blacking out channels) also account for 30 percent of complaints. An additional 30 percent of complaints related to complaints about goods and products, their malfunction, and the remaining 10 percent of complaints related to the financial services sector and the online shopping and fraud sector.
Online shopping and scams
As for online shopping, the Institution says that over the years, consumers have increasingly complained about this type of shopping.
“This also means that the volume of this type of trade is increasing, but also the number of dangers in this type of trade. Namely, since Covid-19, from 2020 to today, the number of services and products sold online has increased significantly, but there has been a significant and to an increase in fraud,” added the Institution.
Complaints received by the Institution, which refer to the purchase of services and products from authorized sellers, have been successfully resolved to the greatest extent in favor of consumers.
But unfortunately, they add, all the complaints that have been received, which refer to fraud (purchases through social networks from fake profiles, unverified merchants) violate consumer rights and are considered criminal offenses.
Theft, alienation, fraud and these types of complaints were forwarded to the competent Ministry of Interiors.
Fines for traders from 1,500 to 8,000 BAM
When it comes to fines that can be imposed on traders for violating consumer rights, the Institution notes that articles 125 to 128 of the Law on Consumer Protection in BiH prescribe fines for traders and service providers ranging from 1,500.00 to 8,000.00 marks.
In addition, a number of other legal and by-laws prescribe additional penalties depending on the sector or type of violation of consumer rights.
Speaking about the “price locking” action and how familiar consumers are with it, they say that consumers are aware of the action to a significant extent through media appearances, but that the prices are not highlighted enough.
“The position of the Institution is that the mentioned measures were adopted at the wrong time, i.e. that the locking happened at too high a level, since a significant drop in the prices of raw materials on the world stock exchanges as well as in the countries of the region on store shelves is visible. So locking in more expensive prices at this moment does not brings benefits to consumers,” the aforementioned Institution emphasizes.
When asked how well consumers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are aware of their rights and how much the adoption of a law on consumer rights at the federal level will further help them protect them, they answer that entity laws also help protect consumers, but that changes to the state law on consumer protection are the only way to achieve a balanced consumer protection in the entire territory of BiH.
“So far experience has shown a significant problem with the entity law, since the entity law cannot regulate the delivery of telecommunications services and the entity law recognizes the borders of the entity as competent. Consumers will have a problem in exercising their rights (as a significant number of cases have been recorded) when happens that a consumer from one entity makes a purchase in another entity, with a competent address for complaints. From this aspect, the Institution of the Ombudsman for Consumer Protection in BiH believes that it is necessary to upgrade the state law before passing further entity laws,” the institution points out at the end, Fena news agency reports.