Politics: Do second-class goods arrive on the Serbian market?

Although the topic of different product quality for the East and West of the European Union has been current for years, no analyzes have ever been done in Serbia that would show the situation on our market. The National Consumers’ Organization of Serbia (NOPS) warned about this yesterday, emphasizing that there is no analysis, but only speculations and subjective assessments of customers.

“Multinational companies have been justifying for years that customers in different countries have different habits. That is the biggest abuse, when it comes to product quality “, says Goran Papović, president of the National Consumer Organization (NOPS).

Analyzes, he says, are not conducted, because consumer organizations do not have enough money, and such research requires large funds. But money, he adds, is not just a problem.

“When we did an independent analysis of the quality of milk on our market a few years ago, no one disputed any results. But everyone asked where our money came from and who financed it. In Serbia, we continue to argue about whether competition falsifies information, instead of thinking about the common good. We are all consumers of these products “, says Papović.

It should be reminded that the Eastern bloc of the EU has been fighting for five years to ban double product quality and stop discrimination against consumers. Several analyzes in different countries have shown that this practice has taken off. In Croatia, for example, it was determined that out of 26 products, as many as 22 were of poorer quality than in East Germany. Among them were “nutella”, “ariel” detergent, “hip” baby food, “woody” hot dogs… A similar study in Slovakia proved that half of the products from their shops were of poorer quality than the same in Austria. The Visegrad Group also reacted on this occasion, requesting that the quality be standardized, that the buffalo be removed from the Eastern European market and that double standards be punished. After these results and pressures, the EU conducted a large study which showed that nine percent of the products have a different composition, but that this “does not necessarily mean that the quality is different”. The deviation in the composition, they announced, was due to the habits and tastes of consumers in certain markets.

“Exactly such statements are the biggest abuse. Do we like chocolate with less hazelnuts or hot dogs with less meat? It is clear that the producers had an influence on such assessments “, says Papović.

However, with the revision of the Unfair Business Practices Directive, the EU finally, in March 2019, banned such behavior by multinational companies.

At the time, two million euros were allocated from the joint budget for the development of the research methodology and 800,000 euros for new testing. It was also agreed that the European Commission will evaluate the effectiveness of the new rules within three years, with the possibility of further tightening them. The directive also stipulates that the penalties for producers who sell double quality will be up to four percent of their annual turnover. Since then, however, there has not been enough information on whether this is really being respected, how much research has been conducted in the meantime and whether any company has violated the new rules and been sanctioned.

So far, there has been no serious initiative in Serbia to reconsider such a practice.

“We hope that some of the authorities will see the need to initiate such research.” Especially since it has already been proven in the members of Eastern Europe that there is discrimination against customers in relation to those in the “old” members of the union “, Papović points out, and adds that for now we can only speculate and hope that Serbia will indirectly benefit from regulations introduced into the EU, assuming that manufacturers adhere to so-called good business practice. The NOPS points out that Serbia, as a candidate country for the EU, really needs such a research so that we can position ourselves and see where we are on this issue. They say that they addressed the authorities several times on that occasion.

Biljana Borzan, a member of the EU Consumer Protection Committee and one of the most vocal advocates of equalizing product quality in all markets, said recently that there was no information on the situation in non-EU countries.

“All governments should insist on that and prevent producers from carrying out arbitrariness,” Borzan told the “Business” portal. Discrimination against consumers, she said, must be punishable.

Jelica Antelj / Ivana Albunović

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