Wonder products, fake bio goods and masks are the focus of consumer protection investigations this year

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The Ministry of Innovation and Technology published a 48-point list showing what industries and products will be scrutinised this year. It’s a good idea to get prepared, because if you disagree with a decision, you can only defend yourself in court.

Consumer protection authorities will target wonder products, fake masks and amusement parks. Used car dealers should also be careful, just as those who want to greenwash their businesses. Actually, consumer protection authorities were very active last year as well.

Masks in the crosshairs

In the shadow of the pandemic, FFP and other face masks sold in online and traditional trade will be subject to more intensive scrutiny. Compliance with mandatory guarantee rules, which underwent a major overhaul at the start of the year, will also receive more attention, although the authorities will not focus on guarantees only.

“The protection of consumers in the online space has been an expressly declared objective for more than a year now”, said Andrea Magdolna Nagy, the leader of Cerha Hempel’s consumer protection practice, in a statement sent to Forbes.hu. This is reflected in the annual inspection programme, which targets

online sales, including the sales of “wonder products” and coupon deals.

The inspection of used car sales returns after quite a long hiatus, while such evergreen targets as sales presentation events and the complaints handling practices of shops, telecommunications carriers and public utility providers have also made the list this year.

Combating greenwashing

The authorities will also prioritise the fight against deceptive practices, and they will focus on misleading markings on

dietary supplements, seasonal products and, in a new development, on commercial practices associated with sustainability and “green claims”.

Ad agencies and advertisers in all industries should be aware that the Hungarian Competition Authority has recently published a “Green Marketing” summary that includes a lot of good advice on how to avoid the use of baseless “environmental” or “green” claims that mislead consumers.

Masks will be scrutinised
Masks will be scrutinised.  Gabriella Clare Marino // Unsplash

So it is advisable to review the use of terms like “environmentally friendly”, “sustainable” “bio” and “biodegradable” or symbols and marks that convey the same meaning, because no less than two regulatory authorities have decided to combat “greenwashing” marketing strategies in 2021. 

Amusement parks will not be spared

“The stakes remain high and our goal is to remove as many dangerous products from the market as possible or to have them recalled in order to protect the health, life and limb of all.”

Therefore, distributors of toys and electric appliances can expect inspections, in combination with lab analyses, throughout the year.

The terms of operation of amusement parks and travelling funfairs, adventure parks, outdoor gyms, via ferratas, waterparks and playground toys will also be reviewed this year. The inspections will also target baby and toddler clothes, textile products with claimed 100% cotton content, construction products, school supplies and childcare products. Additionally, the EU’s Regulation 2019/1020 on market surveillance will introduce new powers and responsibilities in the market surveillance regime from 16 July 2021.

The full inspection programme is available here. It is important to note that the programme only lists inspections that are guaranteed to take place, but consumer complaints may also trigger inspections, plus the authorities also conduct reviews of their own motion and they also tend to have specially themed audits every year. 

The authorities will carry out their inspections in each county separately, as part of the local government office. Decisions will be adopted in a single-tier procedure at the end of the investigations and may only be challenged in court.

Author: Andrea Magdolna Nagy, attorney, Consumer Protection Practice Leader

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