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A new Consumer Protection Act (the "Act") entered into force in North Macedonia on 15 November 2022.
The previous Consumer Protection Act was already largely harmonised with the consumer protection rules of the European Union. However, the new Act now further harmonises the consumer protection law of North Macedonia with that of the EU, and envisages provisions that can be used as a legal basis for the adoption of new bylaws in the area of consumer protection.
The new Act now explicitly regulates seasonal discounts and the manner in which merchants may offer such discounts, providing that they can only be implemented after the end of the season. As such, seasonal discounts may only be organised in the following periods:
Clearance sale of goods and services
The new Act defines specific situations when the merchant can have clearance sale of goods and services:
i. the merchant ceases to operate;
ii. the merchant ceases to operate in its previous business premises;
iii. the merchant discontinues certain goods or services related to its business activity; or
iv. the merchant performs complex construction operations in or on its business premises.
The sales from points ii. and iii. are allowed only if the merchant does not continue to offer the goods or services in its previous business premises, i.e. does not put the specified goods or services on the market less than six months from the day of the end of the sale.
Promotional sales (promotion)
As opposed to the previous Consumer Protection Act, the new Act envisages a precise definition of what is considered as a "promotional sale". Namely, a promotional sale is a special form of placing on sale a limited number of new goods or services in relation to all existing goods or services offered by the merchant. Such a promotional sale can be offered solely for a period of no longer than eight days. In this regard, the goods or services that are on promotional sale must be labelled in a clear, visible and readable manner with the words "promotion" or "promotional sale" (mkd. "Промоција" or "Промотивна продажба"). Finally, when announcing the promotional sale, the merchant must state its duration.
Sale actions of goods and services
The new Act defines sale actions of goods or services as a special form of placing on the market a limited number of goods or services, in relation to all goods or services offered by the merchant. Such a sale action must be carried out within a period of no longer than 30 days. The goods and services that are on sale action must be labelled in a clear, visible and readable manner with the words "action" or "sale action" (mkd. "Акција" or "Акциска продажба"). As for promotional sales, the merchant must state the duration of the sale action.
Language of the documents that must accompany the goods and services
The Act now prescribes an additional obligation for merchants regarding the information on the goods and services provided to consumers. Specifically, merchants should provide certain information on the goods and services in Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet, as well as in the language spoken by at least 20 % of the citizens on the territory of North Macedonia and its respective alphabet (i.e. Albanian language and its Latin alphabet). In particular, this applies to the documents accompanying goods and services (such as declarations of conformity, certificates, warranties, technical instructions, etc.) as well as (i) contracts for time-shared use of real estate, (ii) long-term holiday good contracts, (iii) resale contracts, and (iv) exchange contracts concluded between the consumer and the merchant. The fulfilment of this obligation does not exclude the possibility of other languages being included when informing the consumer.
Out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes
The new Act now provides for a general obligation of merchants to first settle disputes with consumers in an amicable way. If this is not possible, the parties will have the option of settling out of court as a means of improving the effective dispute resolution between the merchants and the consumers. This manner of dispute resolution includes settlement of a consumer dispute based on a submitted consumer complaint or request by either a consumer or by the bodies authorised to protect the collective interests and rights of consumers. Such dispute resolution should be carried out (i) before a holder of a code of conduct, or (ii) via mediation, or (iii) via arbitration, or (iv) in any other form of out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes in accordance with the applicable special regulations.
Transboundary violations of consumer rights
The Act now regulates the initiation of procedures for the protection of consumer rights in case of transboundary violations. Therefore, when the violation of rights occurs on the territory of North Macedonia, any body from another EU Member State authorised to protect the collective interests and rights of consumers can initiate proceedings before a competent court or the market surveillance authorities in North Macedonia. However, these provisions will become applicable following the accession of North Macedonia to the EU.
The Act envisages lower fines compared to the previous Consumer Protection Act, now ranging from EUR 500 to EUR 10,000 depending on the size of the merchant. Moreover, the Act prescribes fines for the responsible person within the merchant, ranging from EUR 50 to EUR 350.
authors: Martin Ivanov, Filip Zafirovski