The Covid-19 crisis has changed the consumer protection landscape, bringing a whole new set of risks for consumers. In response, national and European authorities drafted new regulations, increased monitoring activities, and launched new investigations to protect consumers.
As the coronavirus became a pandemic in March 2020, unprecedented rules and restrictions were put into place that changed the relationship between companies and consumers. This accelerated certain business trends and worsened the underlying consumer issues on the local market.
To protect consumers, the Romanian authorities have launched in the last months specific investigations, implemented preventive measures, and applied significant sanctions to the noncompliant companies. They announced they will extend their efforts in 2021.
At Mușat & Asociații, we assisted clients during such investigations and we learned that the authorities are currently focusing on unfair commercial practices, misleading advertising, labelling and promotion of products and services, promotional campaigns, prices and discounts, contracts concluded with consumers and other issues, as detailed below.
The National Authority for Consumer Protection launched several investigations concerning:
• information on companies’ websites and at their premises;
• claims regarding the qualification and main features of the products and services and the information backing up the claims (g., studies, analyses, research);
• labelling (e.g., the translation into the local language, user manual, special warnings);
• warranties related to products and services;
• contracts concluded with consumers;
• sales and marketing communications, promotional offers;
• other misleading or aggressive commercial practices.
Ministry of Finance, through ANAF, investigates:
• all advertising materials and all means of communication (website, YouTube, billboards, banners, catalogues, TV channels, advertising flyers);
• the information backing up the claims regarding the products and services (g., studies, analyses, research);
• communications regarding promotional offers;
• contracts concluded with consumers.
Other competent authorities:
• The Competition Council has a pivotal role in protecting consumers’ interests, constantly monitoring the markets, carrying out investigations and sanctioning numerous breaches by enforcing competition rules.
• The Data Protection Authority (ANSPDCP) analyses, amongst others, how data is collected, information transparency, how consent is obtained, how requests for exercising rights are solved, the confidentiality and processing policies of the company.
• The Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF) solves consumers’ complaints on non-compliant activities on the non-banking financial market, including those regarding misleading advertising or presentation of inaccurate or incomplete information.
• The National Audiovisual Council (CNA) focuses on the truthfulness and accuracy of the information presented to consumers through audiovisual commercial communications (g., advertising spots, videos, messages, etc.)