On Approval of the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015-2018


Published: 0000-00-00

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Consolidated version as of 01/01/2016
 
 
 
Government of the Republic of Lithuania
 
 
 
RESOLUTION No 281
 
ON
 
APPROVAL OF THE STATE CONSUMER PROTECTION STRATEGY FOR 2015–2018
 
18 March 2015 Vilnius
 
 
 
In accordance with subparagraph 1 of paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Consumer Protection, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania hereby decides:
 
To approve the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015–2018 (attached).
 
 
 
 
 
Prime Minister                                                                                 Algirdas Butkevičius
 
 
 
Minister of Justice                                                                           Juozas Bernatonis
 
CONFIRMED BY resolution No. 281 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania of 18 March 2015
 
 
 
THE STATE CONSUMER PROTECTION STRATEGY FOR 2015–2018
 
 
 
Chapter I
 
General Provisions
 
1. The State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015–2018 (hereinafter referred to as the Strategy) is a planning document that sets the goals, tasks, and deliverables in the sphere of consumer protection in Lithuania until 2018. The strategy has been prepared in order to improve the operation of the consumer protection system, to develop alternative solutions to consumer disputes, and to increase market competitiveness and consumer opportunities on the internal market.
 
2. The strategy has been prepared according to the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Consumer Protection and the following legal acts:
 
2.1. The state progress strategy “The Lithuanian Progress Strategy “Lithuania 2030”, approved by resolution No. XI-2015 of 15 May 2012 of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania “On Approving the State Progress Strategy “The Lithuanian Progress Strategy “Lithuania 2030”;
 
2.2. The programme of the sixteenth Government for 2012–2016, approved by resolution No. XII-51 of 13 December 2012 of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania “On the State Programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania”;
 
2.3. The priority measures of implementing the programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania for 2012–2016, approved by resolution No. 228 of 13 March 2013 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On Approving the Priority Measures of Implementing the Programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania for 2012–2016”;
 
2.4. The national progress programme for 2014–2020, approved by resolution No. 1482 of 28 November 2012 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On Approving the National Progress Programme for 2014–2020” (hereinafter referred to as the National Progress Programme for 2014–2020);
 
2.5. The results of implementing the state consumer protection strategy for 2011–2014, approved by resolution No. 848 of 7 July 2011 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On Approving the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2011–2014” (hereinafter referred to as the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2011–2014);
 
2.6. Regulation (EU) No. 254/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 regarding the multiannual consumer programme for 2014–2020, according to which Decision No. 1926/2006/EC (OJ 2014 L 84, page 42) is repealed (hereinafter referred to as the Multiannual Consumer Programme);
 
2.7. The resolution of the European Parliament of 22 May 2012 on the strategy for strengthening the rights of vulnerable consumers (2011/2272(INI)) (Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0209);
 
2.8. The Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 22 May 2012 “A European Consumer Agenda - Boosting Confidence and Growth” COM(2012) 225 final (hereinafter referred to as the European Consumer Agenda);
 
2.9. The Communication from the European Commission of 18 December 2012 on Content in the Digital Single Market COM(2012) 789 final;
 
2.10. The working document of the European Commission on the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard “Consumers at Home in the Single Market”, Ninth edition, 22 July 2013, SWD(2013) 291 (hereinafter referred to as the Ninth Consumer Conditions Scoreboard).
 
3. The European Consumer Agenda seeks to achieve two goals – to promote economic growth and to restore trust in the European economy by promoting consumer empowerment and strengthening the synergy of policies. Long-term results are only possible if decisive effort is made by all stakeholders of the Consumer Agenda – at the level of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as the EU) and at the national as well as international levels. The European Consumer Agenda defines a systematic approach to integrating consumer interests into all important policies. Much attention in this document is devoted to the problems of consumer protection in various sectors, such as the food supply chain, energy supply, transportation, and digital and financial services.
 
The European Consumer Agenda provides for 4 main tasks of the consumer protection policy: improving consumer safety; raising consumer awareness; better implementation, enforcement, and compensation for the damage; adjusting consumer rights and main policies to economic and social change.
 
The European Consumer Agenda emphasizes the importance of raising consumer awareness. Empowered consumers, who can trust the proper system that ensures their safety, information, education, rights, compensation for the damage and protection of rights, can actively participate in the market and make use of its advantages, i.e. use the opportunity to choose and properly exercise their rights.
 
With regard to the sphere of financial services, the European Consumer Agenda stipulates that it is necessary to carefully monitor consumers’ understanding and choice of financial services. Technological progress (for example, internet banking) made the lives of many consumers easier; however, due to the complexity of certain financial products and services (including pensions) and associated risk, more transparency and financial literacy is required. Consumers have a limited understanding of fees for main financial services; therefore people still (often for a good reason) are reluctant to start using the services of a different bank as they are afraid that it will be complicated. Thus, it is very important to improve consumer knowledge of financial services. An active role in this is played by banks, central banks, financial market surveillance institutions, consumer associations, and deposits and investors protection schemes, which seek to improve financial empowerment, including empowerment of people who do not have bank accounts or rarely use bank services.
 
4. The general goal of the Multiannual Consumer Programme is to implement a strategy of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, to ensure a high level of consumer protection, to empower consumers and ensure their central role on the internal market. This goal will be achieved by helping to ensure the protection of consumer health, safety, legal and economic interests, to encourage their right to information, education, and the right to be organised for the protection of their interests, to support the inclusion of the interests of such consumers in other policies. The Multiannual Consumer Programme outlines 4 specific goals that will help to achieve a common goal: safety: to support and increase the safety of products by carrying out effective market surveillance throughout the EU; consumer information and education as well as support of consumer organisations: to improve consumer education, information and awareness of their rights, to develop the evidence base for consumer policy and to provide support to consumer organisations according to the needs of most vulnerable consumers; rights and protection of rights: to develop and strengthen the rights of consumers, in particular by carrying out smart regulatory activity and improving the opportunities of using simple, effective, fast and inexpensive measures of rights protection, including alternative resolution of disputes; enforcement: to support the enforcement of human rights by strengthening the cooperation of national enforcement institutions and by providing advice to consumers.
 
The Multiannual Consumer Programme emphasises that it is crucial to remove remaining unfounded and disproportionate obstacles to the proper operation of the internal market and to enhance consumer trust in the system, in particular when consumers make purchases in a different state. In addition, attention to vulnerable consumers is emphasised: they should have equal opportunities to freely make justified decisions. It may be difficult for vulnerable consumers to receive and understand information intended for consumers, so there is a risk that they may be misled.
 
5. An assessment of the implementation of the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015–2018 shows positive changes in the consumer situation in Lithuania. According to the Ninth Consumer Conditions Scoreboard (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_research/editions/docs/9th_edition_scoreboard_en.pdf), the annual index of consumer conditions, which is determined by evaluating the condition of all crucial areas of consumer rights protection, increased by 4 percentage points in Lithuania in 2012, compared to the previous year, and amounted to 56 per cent. The number of consumers who think that the existing measures properly protect their rights increased by as many as 8 percentage points (up to 47 per cent). This is the highest value from 2008 to 2012. The number of consumers who trust institutions that protect their rights increased to 46 per cent in 2014, consumer trust in business operators increased (70 per cent in 2014, which is almost equal to the EU average – 71 per cent). Although, according to the data published by the European Commission, the values of some indicators of skills and knowledge of Lithuanian consumers are high in the context of the EU as a whole, it is essential to continue to educate consumers and entrepreneurs in a coordinated manner.
 
6. One of the tasks of the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015–2018 is to encourage the self-regulation of entrepreneurs. To carry out this task, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority approved the Traders Self-Regulation Guidelines on 26 October 2011. The Guidelines contain main provisions and criteria that traders should follow during creation of codes of conduct, approval of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and definition of self-regulation principles. Five codes of conduct were approved from 2011 to 2014. However, economic operators are still not interested in creating codes of conduct, joining them and actively participating in their implementation. Only a small number of entrepreneurs (12 per cent) have familiarised themselves with the code of fair dealing and have signed it. This indicator has not changed much since 2011. On the other hand, 61 per cent of entrepreneurs are aware of alternative dispute resolution, while 65 per cent of them think that preserving their reputation would be the primary reason for them to apply an alternative dispute resolution method. It is believed that the provisions of Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No. 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Directive on consumer ADR) (OJ 2013 L 165, page 63), after being transferred to the national legislation, should encourage traders to implement self-regulation principles more actively and to apply alternative dispute resolution methods more widely.
 
7. According to Eurostat (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Main_Page), 38 per cent of Internet users in Lithuania made online purchases in 2013. The Eurostat report mentions Lithuania as one of the states where this indicator has increased particularly rapidly in the recent years. The Information Society Development Committee under the Ministry of Transport and Communications analysed the results of the Eurobarometer study “Cyber Security” that was published at the end of 2013 and ascertained that Lithuanian Internet users still pay too little attention to safe behaviour online. On the other hand, Eurobarometer data show that Lithuanian Internet users are concerned about the threat of various cybercrimes that are associated with Internet use more frequently than Internet users of other EU states: 66 per cent of those surveyed stated that they were worried about the theft and unauthorised use of personal data, for example, during online shopping (EU average – 52 per cent), 63 per cent were concerned about the danger of becoming a victim of credit card fraud or bank data fraud (EU – 49 per cent), and 59 per cent were afraid of their social networking accounts or e-mail accounts being hacked (EU – 45 per cent). Therefore, it is crucial to continue the education of consumers and entrepreneurs by explaining their rights and obligations to them during conclusion of distance contracts, to improve their competence and to increase trust in cyberspace.
 
8. Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania, which provide for an opportunity to protect hurt private interests of persons by filing a class-action lawsuit, came into force on 1 January 2015. This institute should help vulnerable persons to exercise their right to judicial protection and reduce the work load of courts. After the provisions regarding class-action lawsuits came into force, the right of persons to judicial protection will be ensured more efficiently because a class-action lawsuit can protect the interests of those persons who do not begin litigation on their own due to financial difficulties, lack of experience or time or for other reasons. Violated consumer rights may be protected by a class-action lawsuit as well. Consumer associations inter alia may represent the group if the dispute is related to their activity goals.
 
9. The Council Decision 2014/509/EU on the adoption by Lithuania of the euro on 1 January 2015, which was made on 23 July 2014 (OJ 2014 L 228, page 29), concluded that Lithuania had fulfilled the necessary conditions for adopting the euro. The Republic of Lithuania Law on the Euro Adoption in the Republic of Lithuania was adopted on 17 May 2014; its purpose is to establish the procedure for the preparation to adopt the euro, exchange of the litas to the euro, conversion of values denominated in litas to values denominated in euro after the euro adoption in the Republic of Lithuania and withdrawal of the litas from circulation. According to resolution No. 604 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania of 26 June 2013 “On the National Euro Adoption Plan and the Strategy of Informing the Lithuanian Public about the Adoption of the Euro and Communication”, the National Euro Adoption Plan was confirmed; the Plan establishes the main principles, methods, periods and instruments of euro adoption by the Republic of Lithuania that ensure the protection of consumer interests, smooth replacement of the litas with the euro and provision of information to the public, and the distribution of information at the international and EU levels. This goal is being achieved by carrying out the prevention of abuse and the population’s misunderstanding of the evolution of prices. For consumers to get used to the new currency faster and for economic operators to convert prices in good faith, an obligatory period of prices being indicated in litas and euro (from 22 August 2014 to 30 June 2015) was established. The National Euro Adoption Plan stipulates that institutions that examine complaints and carry out inspections shall submit monthly reports to the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority according to the form approved by it about received complaints and identified violations (their frequency and change) that are related to the adoption of the euro. In addition, proposals on measures to prevent similar cases in the future must be submitted; in order to prevent large-scale and constant violations, most frequent cases and disputes related to the adoption of the euro shall be recorded and identified in a systematic manner. The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority is obligated to provide the Government of the Republic of Lithuania every month with summary information received from state authorities.
 
 
 
CHAPTER II
 
GOALS AND TASKS OF THE STRATEGY
 
 
 
SECTION I
 
THE FIRST GOAL – TO IMPROVE THE OPERATION OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION SYSTEM BY ENSURING THAT THE ECONOMIC INTERESTS OF CONSUMERS ARE PROTECTED EFFECTIVELY
 
10. This goal is achieved by taking into account the necessity to coordinate the actions of market surveillance institutions and to establish and (or) improve the regulatory framework of certain consumption areas in order to ensure that violated consumer rights are properly protected. This is especially important in those cases when collective interests of consumers are violated, while consumer protection institutions must promptly prohibit illegal actions (inaction) of sellers or service providers.
 
11. The first task of the first goal is to improve market surveillance and interinstitutional cooperation:
 
11.1. In April 2014, a study of the system of institutions implementing the market surveillance policy (http://www.ukmin.lt/uploads/documents/imported/lt/veiklos_kryptys/ es_vidaus_rinka/Rinkos_priez_politika_galutine_ataskaita_2014-05-16.pdf) was presented; the goal of the study was to analyse the functions of the market surveillance system and to determine whether national law properly implements the provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No. 339/93 (OJ 2008 L 218, page 30) – the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of the product, and to present proposals regarding potential improvement of the regulation. One of the objects of the study was the cooperation of national market surveillance institutions. The study states that: “Cooperation agreements should ensure a smoother, faster and more efficient cooperation between various public institutions. Interagency cooperation may adopt different forms: sharing and exchange of information, provisions of methodological assistance and advice, participation in joint activities by performing certain actions together. Irrespective of form, interinstitutional cooperation should be carried out without violating the requirements of the legal acts that regulate the functions and the activity of the institution.” Since the examination of consumer complaints and the prohibition of potentially illegal commercial activity requires coordinated action of several public institutions, it is expedient to develop interinstitutional cooperation in the area of consumer protection. One of suggested forms is the organisation of seminars, conferences and meetings to discuss matters of safety assessment of non-food products (products and services). Efficient market surveillance is also ensured by improving the competence of relevant professionals, therefore it is expedient to organise training for the employees of market surveillance institutions.
 
11.2. Websites that are registered abroad are used to sell food supplements that are non-notified in Lithuania and potentially unsafe. These products are usually particularly intensively advertised, in violation of the provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods (OJ 2006 L 404, page 9) and the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising. However, when the manufacturer of such food supplements is registered in a non-EU state, no contact information is given on the distributor of the food supplements, and when the websites are registered in non-EU states, the surveillance institutions of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising have no measures to stop advertising that does not fulfil the requirements. The situation is the same in the case of supervision of compliance with the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices, the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Consumer Protection or other laws online. Therefore, it is expedient to analyse the necessary scope of surveillance for websites that violate the requirements of legal acts, the possibilities of restricting consumer access, and ways of improving the relevant legislation.
 
11.3. Paragraph 4 of Article 14 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising stipulates that the advertising of food supplements must include the reference “food supplement”. Paragraph 7 of Article 14 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising stipulates that the advertising of energy drinks must include the words “do not mix with alcoholic beverages”. It is unclear how these provisions of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising should be implemented, for example, how big the information label should be or how much of the area (percentage) of the total advertising space it should occupy, whether the label is mandatory for all advertising measures, whether it is enough for the label to be visible or it should be audible as well, etc. Currently there is no case law associated with these matters. Necessary implementing legislation would help to properly implement paragraphs 4 and 7 of Article 14 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising. If business operators properly comply with the provisions of paragraphs 4 and 7 of Article 14 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising, consumers will receive information in an adequate manner.
 
12. The second task of the first goal is to improve the regulatory framework of consumer protection:
 
12.1. In order to increase the efficiency of market surveillance, as regards product safety, it is expedient to reconsider the provisions of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Product Safety, while paying particular attention to imposed economic sanctions and the imposition procedure because it is not particularly effective. Currently there are many companies that were fined for violating the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Product Safety, but they still repeatedly violate the requirements of the aforementioned law. Therefore, fines fail to fulfil their main (preventative) function, they do not ensure that appropriate measures are taken so that only safe products are supplied to the market. On this basis, it is planned to prepare a draft law to amend the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Product Safety: to set higher maximum fine limits, to expand the list of aggravating circumstances and to establish equal liability for introducing a dangerous product as well as a dangerous service to the market.
 
12.2. Currently the activity of companies that collect the debts out of court is not specially regulated; the general provisions of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Law on Services of the Republic of Lithuania are applied to them. Sellers or service providers to whom a consumer is indebted (consumer debt) may transfer the right of claim to third persons (to persons who collect debts). Usually consumers do not know to what debt collection company the collection of the debt will be transferred by the creditor if the debt is not paid on time, and they cannot influence the decision. When debts are collected out of court, debt collection companies are not obligated to inform the consumer with regard to whom collection actions are being performed about the collection procedure and the collection costs. During out-of-court debt collection, maximum cost amounts are not set; in addition, it is not established for how long debt collection companies may carry out debt collection actions. There are cases when debt collection companies abuse their rights and take unreasonable and unnecessary collection actions by unjustifiably increasing the consumer debt that they intend to collect. Although in this case debt collection companies base their claims on consumer contracts, they are not linked to consumers by consumer contracts. Therefore, an investigation is planned: to study the experience of foreign countries in the area of consumer protection when debts are collected out of court and to present proposals on improving consumer protection in this area.
 
12.3. Construction work is a problematic area for consumer protection. It is crucial to improve consumer protection, as regards the quality of construction work, and overhaul and repair of buildings, in a systematic manner. Currently the participation of public institutions in the identification of construction faults that emerged under guarantee is not regulated, it is not established which public institution can evaluate the quality of construction work and installed products (windows and doors), identify causes of faults, and present conclusions. If there is a dispute between the parties regarding the quality of construction work, consumers have the right to order an expert assessment of the faults and (or) the quality of the components (windows and doors) of the building. Consumers who incurred damage as a result of construction faults may apply to a certified expert assessment company of their choice; however, these services (expert assessment) are expensive and it is difficult for consumers to protect their rights that were violated because of the poor quality of construction work. In addition, legal acts provide for a warranty period for construction work, so if the entity that performed the construction work goes bankrupt the consumer has no chance to demand that the construction faults be eliminated. Considering the above, it is planned to prepare draft laws to amend the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Construction and the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Consumer Protection – to improve the procedure of identifying construction faults (flaws) and the fulfilment of warranty obligations.
 
12.4. Legal acts regulating the heat economy do not regulate certain matters that cause disputes between heat consumers and heat suppliers: the responsibility of heat suppliers for incorrect heat distribution; recalculation of fees paid by consumers to heat suppliers for heat and hot water; provision of information to consumers when hot water accounting devices are installed and replaced; obligations and responsibility of communities of owners of multi-apartment houses when the heat distribution method is applied in the building; calculation of heat used for heating a flat or other room and recalculation of distributed heat in multi-apartment houses where a collector heating system is installed in the flats or other rooms. Thus, after the analysis of consumer protection in the area of heat economy is complete, it will be decided how the regulatory framework should be improved in order to strengthen consumer protection in the area of heat economy and, if necessary, draft amendments to the law on amending the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Heat Economy and the Rules of Heat Supply and Consumption approved by order No. 1-297 of 25 October 2010 of the Minister of Energy “On Approving the Rules of Heat Supply and Consumption” will be prepared.
 
12.5. Cases of tour operators’ bankruptcy and insolvency that caused direct damage to consumers (tourists) in 2014 demonstrate that it is necessary to strengthen consumer protection and improve the function of surveillance and supervision of providers of tourism services, which is carried out by the State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Economy of Lithuania. For this purpose, it is necessary to analyse the relevant current practice and actions that EU member states take when tour operators become insolvent or go bankrupt and to determine whether these measures could be implemented in Lithuania. After research results are analysed proposals on improving consumer protection in this area will be presented.
 
12.6. Consumer protection institutions perform the surveillance of consumer markets, use the same system to collect and analyse data on consumer markets and periodically provide information on the developments on consumer markets as well as present proposals regarding these matters. In order to assess the status of consumer protection as accurately as possible and to make decisions based on surveillance results, consumer protection institutions provide information to the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority on activities that were performed. The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority every year systematises information of all consumer protection institutions regarding complaints examined by the institutions, cases of protecting the public interest, market surveillance activity, corrective action applied to business, implemented consumer education, and surveillance results and makes this information publicly available; in addition, it submits proposals on amending the legal acts.
 
 
 
SECTION II
 
THE SECOND GOAL – TO DEVELOP ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS TO CONSUMER DISPUTES
 
13. This goal was selected according to a goal stipulated in the Multiannual Consumer Programme – to develop and strengthen consumer rights, in particular by carrying out smart regulatory activity and improving the opportunities of using simple, effective, fast and inexpensive measures of rights protection, including alternative resolution of disputes. Alternative dispute resolution is regulated by the Directive on consumer ADR, whose provisions must be transferred to the national law of Lithuania by 9 July 2015.
 
14. The task of the second goal is to improve the out-of-court system of consumer disputes resolution:
 
14.1. The Directive on consumer ADR provides for quality requirements imposed on the entities of alternative resolution of consumer disputes and on the procedures of alternative resolution of consumer disputes in order to ensure that consumers, irrespective of their place of residence in the EU, have the opportunity to use high-quality, transparent, effective and fair out-of-court rights protection measures. The Directive on consumer ADR encourages member states to involve representatives of professional organisations, business associations and consumer organisations in the creation of alternative consumer dispute resolution systems.
 
It is important to mention Regulation (EU) No. 524/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No. 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Regulation on consumer ODR) (OJ 2013 L 165, page 1). This Regulation and the Directive on consumer ADR comprise the common legislative package for creating alternative dispute resolution in the EU. On the basis of the Regulation on consumer ODR, a single EU online platform will be created to allow consumers who purchased goods online in any EU member state (in their country as well as in a different EU member state) as well as traders to resolve disputes arising from contracts online. This Regulation, with certain exceptions, will apply from 9 January 2016.
 
14.2. In order to improve the effectiveness of alternative resolution of consumer disputes and considering that the consumer is the weaker party in the legal relationship, it is expedient to transfer the provisions of the Directive on consumer ADR to the national law by taking into account the current situation, to reconsider the guideline character of the decisions made by alternative consumer dispute resolution entities and to establish, if necessary, that the decisions made by alternative consumer dispute resolution entities are obligatory if a dispute party does not go to court within a set period of time.
 
 
 
SECTION III
 
THE THIRD GOAL – TO IMPROVE THE EDUCATION OF CONSUMERS AND ENTREPRENEURS AND TO ENHANCE THE ROLE OF CONSUMER ASSOCIATIONS
 
15. This goal was selected according to a goal stipulated in the Multiannual Consumer Programme – to improve consumer education, information and awareness of their rights, to expand the factual database intended for consumer policy and to provide support to consumer organisations, and, considering the need to improve lifelong consumer education, particular attention is paid to vulnerable consumers. Survey data show that younger working consumers who follow professional occupations know and are aware of their rights best and know where to apply; therefore, it is expedient to devote more attention to educating and informing those consumers who experience social exclusion. Sociological surveys of individuals and business operators conducted over the last few years show that it is essential to strengthen consumer protection in regions – to create conditions for consumers who experience social exclusion to improve their knowledge regarding consumer rights.
 
It is important to ensure that educational instruments and materials intended for consumers and entrepreneurs are made in a coordinated manner, that is, as a result of cooperation of public and municipal institutions, education and training institutions, consumer and business associations, and other stakeholders.
 
16. The first task of the third goal is to educate consumers and entrepreneurs:
 
16.1. According to the data published by the European Commission, some indicators of consumer rights knowledge and skills of Lithuanian consumers are rather high in the context of the EU as a whole. For example, in Lithuania 70 per cent (EU average – 69 per cent) of consumers know their rights related to withdrawing from a distance contract (as well as the period for exercising the right of withdrawal), 27 per cent (EU average – 22 per cent) of consumers have heard about the European Consumer Centres. Compared to 2011, certain other indicators have improved as well, for example, there has been a rapid increase of the number of consumers who know about the warranty period when a faulty product is purchased (in 2012 – 43 per cent, in 2011 – 35 per cent), although the EU average has not been reached yet (56 per cent). When entrepreneurs’ skills and knowledge of consumer rights were analysed, it was found that 79 per cent of entrepreneurs know where to look for and obtain information on matters of consumer protection (EU average – 85 per cent); however, only 12 per cent of entrepreneurs know how long repairing a faulty product should take (EU average – 29 per cent). Taking these data into consideration, it is necessary to implement measures to better inform consumers and entrepreneurs about certain consumption-related matters.
 
According to the data of a study of financial behaviour and literacy of Lithuanian residents conducted in 2012 at the request of the Bank of Lithuania, the country's consumers lack financial literacy, which may lead to long-term financial difficulties, unreasonable selection of financial services and products, and debts. As many as 39 per cent of those surveyed assess their ability not to spend more than they earn as poor or very poor, while 36 per cent of them would not be able to subsist on their savings for more than a month if they lost their main source of income. In order to systematically improve the financial literacy of individuals, it would be expedient to involve institutions that coordinate formal education in the financial education process and to include financial literacy matters into educational programmes. In this area, the role of consumer associations as main disseminators of information is particularly important – financial literacy projects created by them would reach more residents of the country, particularly those who are already facing financial difficulties or have long-term debts.
 
16.2. In the Consumer Markets Scoreboard presented by the European Commission in 2014, consumers of the utilities market, particularly electricity and gas, were evaluated lower than average. Despite recent progress, evaluation of opportunities to compare offers and to choose or change service providers on the utilities market remains poor. The goal is to expand the offers of energy supply to consumers, to make bills more transparent, to ensure that consumers have the opportunity to obtain data regarding consumed energy, and to create more favourable conditions for changing service providers.
 
Consumer applications (complaints) received from the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices show that consumers do not understand factors that determine the amounts in heating bills, the costs of shared premises heating, and the values of energy efficiency in buildings. Therefore, first it is necessary to teach society about the basics of energy, to educate consumers, to increase their energy literacy, and to fundamentally change the negative public opinion of the energy sector. Too little attention is paid to educating young people and consumers who experience social exclusion (disabled and elderly people) according to their specific needs and financial capabilities.
 
According to data from 2013, 81 per cent of residents did not know where they should apply if their rights or legitimate interests in the energy sphere had been violated. In 2013, 13 per cent of applications (complaints) received by the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices were forwarded by other institutions, and 6 per cent were forwarded to other institutions according to their areas of expertise. So, a considerable number of these documents is still received by the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices indirectly or should be attributed to the area of expertise of a different public administration institution. Hence, consumers do not know to which institution they should apply and are not aware of the areas of expertise of institutions that supervise the energy sector.
 
17. The second task of the third goal is to improve the competence of consumers and entrepreneurs and to increase trust in cyberspace:
 
17.1. More and more purchases are made online. According to the data published by the European Commission, in 2013 the number of consumers in Lithuania who purchase goods and services electronically increased by 4 per cent in comparison with 2012. So, trust in electronic commerce of consumers who purchase goods and services electronically is growing.
 
Lithuanian consumers buy goods or services in other EU member states more and more often, but they are unsure whether in this case it would be possible to protect their infringed rights. Due to the enormous potential of electronic commerce and the constant growth of the EU electronic commerce market, consumers continually face new problems. One of the major problems is the surveillance of the market of electronically sold goods. In addition, it is important to mention that in the case of electronic commerce, it is not always clear who the seller or the entity that supplied an unsafe product to the market is; after unsafe goods are removed from retail premises, they are still accessible online; the capabilities of market supervision institutions to respond promptly to online violations are limited. Some consumers do not trust sellers in cyberspace because of the limited and undefined nature of the protection of their rights.
 
In order to improve consumer trust in electronic commerce, it is essential to educate consumers and entrepreneurs. One of the measures of improving consumer trust in electronic commerce could be the creation and use of online trust signs. Such signs help to protect consumers who make online purchases because electronic business representatives guarantee the protection of consumer data from theft of personal data and electronic invoices, security breaches, viruses or other interventions. With the assistance of business and consumer associations, it is expedient to carry out a study and determine the trust signs system model that would suit Lithuanian consumers and to encourage the use of the Internet trust sign.
 
17.2. According to the data of a representative survey of Internet users in Lithuania carried out in 2013, electronic signature was used by 18 per cent of those surveyed, while 65 per cent of them indicated that they know that electronic signature may be used to sign electronic documents. The survey results showed that residents lack information on what an electronic signature is and on how and when it may be used. If they knew how and where an electronic signature may be used, 64 per cent of those surveyed would try to use this instrument. Therefore, it is necessary to raise awareness of consumers and business operators on matters of electronic signature use.
 
The National Computer Emergency Response Team of the Republic of Lithuania (CERT-LT) investigated 25,337 incidents in 2013 according to reports received from Lithuanian providers of electronic communications services, foreign authorities that investigate international incidents, and Lithuanian Internet users on incidents in cyberspace. The number of such reports in 2013 was 18 larger than in 2012 (21,416 reports). Therefore, it is necessary to improve consumer knowledge of cyber security because only informed consumers may be properly protected in cyberspace.
 
18. The third task of the third goal is to enhance the role of Lithuanian consumer associations in the protection of consumer interests:
 
18.1. One of the tasks of the national progress programme for 2014–2020 is to strengthen the role of the non-governmental sector. During implementation of this task, the goal is to encourage the development of civil society and active participation of residents in organised activity. Thus, it is important to strengthen the role of non-governmental organisations in the effective solution of societal problems by providing more higher-quality public services and representing the interests of citizens and the non-governmental sector at the national as well as international levels in a professional manner. It is planned to implement this task by improving the regulatory framework of the activity of non-governmental organisations, improving the financing mechanisms of the activity of these organisations, and developing the cooperation between non-governmental organisations and public institutions. Some of the most important directions of implementing this programme: To improve the opportunities for non-governmental organisations to participate in public policy (external environment, participation at international level, skills, activity financing); to improve conditions for non-governmental organisations to provide public services and carry out preventive activities (regulatory framework, competences, financing); to strengthen the institutional capacities of non-governmental organisations; to strengthen the self-regulation of non-governmental organisations; to develop infrastructure suitable for community-based activities and activities of non-governmental organisations; to promote and develop social innovation created by non-governmental organisations (social entrepreneurship, social groups).
 
18.2. The strengthening of consumer organisations is a component of consumer protection. Consumer organisations are closest to consumers; they quickly identify major problems early. Consumers trust these organisation more; therefore, their role in monitoring the market situation and giving advice to consumers is very important. Strong consumer organisations help consumers become more effective market participants and receive better advice. They have a voice in public discussions when they represent consumer interests on the political front. Thus, it is important to develop responsible, independent and strong consumer organisations. For the competence of these organisations to grow, not only one-off support, but also consistent, long-term and systematic support is needed.
 
18.3. Consumer associations, according to the Rules of Providing Financial Support to Consumer Organisations, approved by resolution No. 127 of 13 February 2008 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On Providing Financial Support to Consumer Organisations”, receive financing for the implementation of programmes and projects of consumer protection measures; therefore, it is crucial to ensure that consumer education measures and other consumer protection measures implemented by consumer associations and public institutions are planned and implemented in a coordinated manner, after determining which areas are important to consumers, with a view to achieving optimum results and using the funds of the budget of the Republic of Lithuania rationally. Consumer education is the part of consumer protection where the main role must be played by consumer organisations. The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority and other institutions that plan specific consumer education actions in annual activity plans, should first consider the opportunity of performing these actions via consumer associations, by purchasing their services via public procurement. Priority axes of consumer education could be discussed in the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority.
 
18.4. In order to strengthen cooperation between public institutions and non-governmental organisations with regard to consumer education matters, the Lithuanian Consumer Institute and the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority implement the project “Cooperation of Non-Governmental Organisations and Public Institutions in Creating and Implementing a Consumer Education Model”. The goal of the project is to encourage public institutions and non-governmental organisations that work in the area of consumer education to cooperate and to jointly contribute to improving the consumer education policy implemented by the government – to create the education model. According to the project, 3 surveys of the non-governmental and public sectors are being conducted to identify the obstacles of implementing the consumer education policy, there will be recommendations on improving the legal acts; guidelines on improving the cooperation between the public sector and the non-governmental sector; a methodological tool for implementing the consumer education policy; and a document defining the consumer education model. After the implementation of this project, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, on the basis of prepared materials, will approve the guidelines on the cooperation between the public sector and the non-governmental sector with regard to consumer education, which will be followed during consumer education.
 
 
 
CHAPTER III
 
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STRATEGY
 
 
 
19. The measures to implement the Strategy shall be financed by using the funds of the state budget of the Republic of Lithuania from overall allocations approved for ministries and institutions participating in implementing the Strategy and other sources of financing. Other funds received according to the procedure stipulated in the legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania may also be allocated for implementing the Strategy.
 
20. Institutions and organisations specified in the annex to the Strategy shall be responsible for achieving the goals and fulfilling the tasks of the Strategy. The Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania, consumer organisations, business associations, third level education institutions, and other social partners shall be encouraged to take part in the implementation of the Strategy.
 
During the implementation of the Strategy, participating institutions and organisations shall include planned measures and actions in their strategic action plans and (or) annual action plans.
 
21. Implementation of the Strategy shall be coordinated by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania. The annual and the final report on implementing the Strategy shall be made by the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority. Institution participating in the implementation of the Strategy, in accordance with the Strategic Planning Methodology, approved by resolution No. 827 of 6 June 2002 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On Approving the Strategic Planning Methodology”, shall provide information to the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority every year by 1 February on actions performed during the year and achieved established criteria and shall analyse the reasons for failing to achieve results. Information on implementing the Strategy shall be included in the annual report of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania according to the procedure stipulated in the Strategic Planning Methodology. Every institution that participates in implementing the Strategy shall inform the public and the coordinating institution, and, if necessary, other institutions according to their areas of expertise about the implementation of the Strategy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Annex to the State Consumer Protection Strategy for 2015–2018
 
 
 
THE LIST OF ASSESSMENT CRITERIA AND TARGET VALUES THEREOF OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STATE CONSUMER PROTECTION STRATEGY FOR 2015–2018
 
Objective
Task
Evaluation criterion
Evaluation criterion value
Institution responsible for the implementation of the evaluation criterion
2015
2016
2017
2018
1. To improve the operation of the consumer protection system by ensuring that the economic interests of consumers are protected effectively
 
R-1-1; increase of the annual index of consumer conditions (index value of 2012 – 56) (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_evidence/consumer_scoreboards/9_edition/docs/cms_9_en.pdf)

57

59
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-1-2; increase of consumer trust in consumer protection institutions, percentage (in 2014 – 46 per cent)

47

48
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-1-3; share of consumers who feel properly protected by existing measures, percentage (in 2012 – 47 per cent) (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_evidence/consumer_scoreboards/9_edition/docs/cms_9_en.pdf)

48

50
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
1.1. To improve market surveillance and interinstitutional cooperation
P-1-1-1; a study has been conducted to ascertain the possibilities of surveillance and consumer access restriction to websites that sell consumer goods and services in violation of the requirements of legal acts regulating consumer protection, proposals have been submitted on improving the legal acts, units


1

The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the Information Society Development Committee under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the State Food and Veterinary Service, the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania
 
 
P-1-1-2; a draft law to amend the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Advertising has been prepared – it is planned to draft implementing legislation of the law with regard to advertising food supplements and energy drinks, units
1



The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the State Food and Veterinary Service
 
 
P-1-1-3; the number of organised seminars, conferences, workshops and meetings on matters of risk assessment of non-food products and services, units
1
1
1
1
The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-1-1-4; share of professionals who took part in interinstitutional training events and improved their skills (with regard to matters of risk assessment), percentage
3
5
5
7
The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
1.2. To improve the regulatory framework of consumer protection
P-1-2-1; research has been conducted to study the experience of foreign countries in the area of protecting consumers’ rights when debts are collected out of court and proposals have been submitted on improving consumer protection in this area, units


1

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the Law Institute of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-1-2-2; the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Product Safety has been revised and a draft law to amend it has been prepared, units

1


The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the State Food and Veterinary Service, the State Road Transport Inspectorate under the Ministry of Transport and Communications
 
 
P-1-2-3; to prepare draft laws to amend the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Construction and the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Consumer Protection – the procedure of identifying construction faults (flaws) and the fulfilment of warranty obligations is being improved, units
2



The Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-1-2-4; an analysis of consumer protection in the area of heat economy has been carried out and, where appropriate, proposals on improving the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Heat Economy and the Rules of Heat Supply and Consumption have been submitted, units
2



The Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania, the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-1-2-5; an analysis of current practices of supervision and surveillance of tourism services in the member states of the European Union has been carried out and proposals on improving consumer protection in this area have been submitted, units
1



The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Economy
 
 
P-1-2-6; an analysis of the comparability of information provided by insurers to consumers has been carried out and, where appropriate, proposals on improving this area have been submitted, units

1


The Bank of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-1-2-7; an annual survey on the status of consumer protection in Lithuania and the activity of consumer protection institutions has been prepared, units
1
1
1
1
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania, the State Energy Inspectorate under the Ministry of Energy, the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices
2. To develop alternative solutions to consumer disputes
 
R-2-1; share of sellers and service providers who are informed about the alternative consumer dispute resolution institution, percentage (41 per cent in 2014)

42

44
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-2-2; share of consumers who are informed about alternative consumer dispute resolution, percentage (34 per cent in 2013)
35
36
37
37
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
2.1. To improve the out-of-court system of consumer disputes resolution
P-2-1-1; share of consumers who found it easy to resolve disputes with sellers or service providers by using alternative consumer dispute resolution measures, percentage (33 per cent in 2014)

35

36
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-2-1-2; draft laws to which provisions of the Directive on consumer ADR are transferred, percentage
100



The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the Bank of Lithuania, the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania, the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices, the State Energy Inspectorate under the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania
 
 
P-2-1-3; public institutions, consumers and entrepreneurs who can resolve consumer disputes by using the European online dispute resolution platform according to the provisions of the Regulation on consumer ODR, percentage

100


The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
3. To improve the education of consumers and entrepreneurs and to enhance the role of consumer associations
 
R-3-1; increase of awareness of business operators regarding consumer protection, percentage (45 per cent in 2013)
46
47
48
49
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-3-2; increase of the index of awareness of consumers regarding consumer protection, percentage (5.8 in 2013)
5.9
6.0
6.1
6.2
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-3-3; increase of the Lithuanian consumers’ trust in electronic commerce (for purchases in their own country), percentage (in 2014 – 18 per cent)

20

21
The Information Society Development Committee under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
R-3-4; share of consumers who think that consumer organisations protect their rights as consumers, percentage (52 per cent in 2014)

53

55
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
3.1. To educate consumers and entrepreneurs
P-3-1-1; share of consumers who have enough information on matters of consumer protection, percentage (in 2013 – 39 per cent)
41
43
44
45
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-1-2; share of business operators knowing where to find or obtain information and advice on legal acts intended for consumers in their country, percentage (79 per cent in 2012) (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_evidence/consumer_scoreboards/9_edition/docs/cms_9_en.pdf)

82

84
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-1-3; the number of regionally organised seminars on issues that are important to consumers and entrepreneurs regarding low-quality products and other consumer protection matters (application of new legal acts, measures of protecting possibly violated consumer rights, and others), units
45
45
45
45
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-1-4; prepared recommendations on implementing the pre-primary education programme, the updated pre-school education programme, and the general programme of primary, basic and secondary education by including financial literacy matters in them, units


1

The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-1-5; the number of created new websites that provide specific, concentrated and clear information on the energy sector to consumers and consumer associations, units
1



The National Commission for Energy Control and Prices
 
 
P-3-1-6; the number of regionally organised seminars intended for improving the competence of different consumer groups in the energy area, units
12
12
12
12
The National Commission for Energy Control and Prices, the State Energy Inspectorate under the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania
 
3.2. To improve the competence of consumers and entrepreneurs and to increase trust in cyberspace
P-3-2-1; a survey of models of online trust signs systems has been carried out, proposals regarding the development of such a sign in Lithuania were submitted, units

1


The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the Information Society Development Committee under the Ministry of Transport and Communications
 
 
P-3-2-2; the number of summarised information notices regarding alternative consumer disputes resolution published on websites, units
1
1
1
1
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania, the State Energy Inspectorate under the Ministry of Energy, the National Commission for Energy Control and Prices
 
 
P-3-2-3; the number of summarised information notices regarding consumer rights when a faulty product or service is purchased that were published on websites, units
1
1
1
1
The State Consumer Rights Protection Authority, the State Food and Veterinary Service
 
 
P-3-2-4; the number of consultations, methodological assistance services and (or) training events organised for consumers or business operators with regard to electronic signature matters, units
50
50
50
50
The Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania
 
 
P-3-2-5; the number of consultations, methodological assistance services and (or) training events organised for consumers or business operators with regard to matters of cyber safety (when information is disseminated through the media and the websites www.cert.lt, www.esaugumas.lt), units
100
100
100
100
The Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania
 
 
P-3-2-6; the effectiveness of recommendations and electronic measures published on the website www.cert.lt that helped Lithuanian Internet users, percentage
70
75
80
85
The Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania
 
3.3. To enhance the role of Lithuanian consumer associations in the protection of consumer interests
P-3-3-1; approved guidelines on the cooperation between the public sector and the non-governmental sector with regard to consumer education, units

1


The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-3-2; the Concept of Education on Matters of Consumer Protection has been drafted and approved

1


The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
P-3-3-3; a proposal was submitted to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on improving the financing of consumer associations, units

1


The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority
 
 
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