Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Conference: Consumers Should Invest in Financial Products, Services They Understand

ZAGREB, 15 March 2022 - Consumers should invest in the financial products and services they understand, and to do that, one should study them well - this was one of the messages of the conference "Consumer in the Digital Finance World", held in Zagreb on Tuesday.

The conference was organised on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day by the ministries of economy and finance, the Croatian National Bank (HNB) and the HANFA regulatory agency for the supervision of financial services.

HANFA Steering Board vice-president Ilijana Jeleč said that digitalisation provided a number of opportunities for consumers as well as pitfalls.

Access to financial services is simpler but there is a large amount of information which is not easy to absorb and consumers are not always willing to sufficiently study the services they buy, she said, noting that this was especially problematic when purchasing financial services and products.

Since those services and products usually imply long-term investments, it is very important to study them before buying them, she said, mentioning also investment fraud on social networks and offers for investments in cryptocurrencies.

Jeleč said that HANFA had warned on a number of occasions that such investments were not regulated and were very speculative, advising consumers to avoid highly risky, speculative products and invest in what they understand.

Underlining the importance of consumer education, she said HANFA was investing significant effort in that regard, was cooperating with schools and universities on youth education and had launched a portal called "Novac za sutra" to inform citizens about financial services and improve their financial literacy.

Minister underlines importance of consumer protection associations

Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić pointed to the 2021-2024 National Programme for Consumer Protection and the new law on consumer protection, to go into force on 28 May, as documents addressing problems faced by consumers living in the digital society.

He said the ministry's services last year answered more than 6,000 phone calls by consumers and replied to more than 3,000 queries.

He underlined the important role of consumer protection associations, notably in the context of the coming introduction of the euro, set for 1 January 2023, noting that the ministry had granted HRK 350,000 to strengthen their institutional capacity.

Consumer protection central principle of euro introduction bill

The State Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Stjepan Čuraj, commenting on the euro introduction bill, noted that the principle of consumer protection and the ban on unjustified price increases had central place in the bill.

Speaking of financial literacy, Čuraj said that according to an OECD survey from 2019, financial literacy in Croatia had increased mildly compared to 2015, when a survey on that topic was carried out by the HNB and HANFA.

The average grade for the financial literacy of consumers in the OECD survey was 12.3 out of 21 points or 59%, while in the 2015 survey it was 56%. However, despite the improvement, the lack of financial competence and skills was the biggest among young people aged 18-29, Čuraj said.

HNB official: Elderly most evident victims of digital revolution

Data by the European Commission show that in the first week of the coronavirus pandemic the use of digital applications in banking grew by 72%.

Commenting on this, HNB vice governor Bojan Fras said that it was interesting that those figures did not change more significantly after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

The digital revolution suits equally banks and their clients, Fras said, but noted that elderly citizens were the most evident victims of the digital revolution, being unwilling to use not only online banking services but also ATMs and bank cards.

Speaking of consumer complaints, Fras said that the HNB in 2021 received and processed 906 complaints and that none referred to digital banking services.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Croatia's New Car Sales in March Up 53% Year-Over-Year

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - A total of 4,165 new passenger cars were sold in Croatia in March 2021, an increase of 52.9% on the same month of last year, according to the data provided by the Promocija Plus market research agency.

The increase in sales is seen as the result of a more favourable buying environment than last spring when the country was under tighter restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In the first three months of this year, Volkswagen sold the most new cars in Croatia - 1,810, accounting for 17.2% of total sales. It was followed by Škoda with 1,408 vehicles sold and a market share of 13.4%, Hyundai (414 vehicles, 5.8% share), Renault (595, 5.6%) and Dacia (591, 5.6%).

The Škoda Octavia remained the best selling model, with 214 units sold in March, ahead of the Dacia Duster (192 vehicles), the VW T-Cross ( 167), the VW Golf (143) and the VW T-Roc (137). Thirty-one Teslas, 18 Porches and 2 Ferraris were also sold last month.

Since the start of the year, 5,535 buyers (52.6%) bought petrol vehicles, 3,053 (29%) opted for diesel-fuelled vehicles, 141 (1.3%) chose electric cars, 323 (3.1%) purchased vehicles powered by natural gas, and 1,467 (13.9%) preferred hybrids.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Coronacrisis has Changed Consumer Habits, Accelerated Online Shopping

ZAGREB, Oct 7, 2020 - The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has changed consumer habits and accelerated online shopping, it was heard at the 32nd edition of the MAGROS 2020 conference for producers and retailers organized by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK)  and the Suvremena Trgovina (Modern Shopping) magazine. 

Economy Ministry State-Secretary Natasa Mikus Zigman underlined that retail is important for economic development, supporting her claim with data on the share of distributive retail trade-in GDP of 10% and that 18% of all business entities are incorporated in that sector that employs 204,000 people or 15% of the total number of workers.

During the pandemic online shopping increased which shows, she said, that digital transformation is coming at an accelerated rate.

However, Mikus Zigman underlined that traditional shopping should not be neglected as it is a key element for economic growth, particularly for local communities and for consumers who do not use digital technology and all those people who prefer the traditional way of shopping.

HGK vice president for retail and finances, Josip Zaher, said that "we are living in very challenging and uncertain times in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic but all restrictions can also be a challenge and an opportunity."

"At the beginning of the year already we expected retail to grow in the overall economy, with tailwinds being provided by the record 2019 year, which after 11 years reached the level of retail of 2008. However, restrictions due to the pandemic have resulted in tectonic disruption on the global level and that downturn was felt in consumption and a change in habits by consumers hence in March a fall in retail was recorded after continually growing for five and a half years," said Zaher.

According to the State Bureau of Statistics (DZS), in the first eight months of the year retail contracted by 6.9%, compared to the same period last year, said Zaher, noting that recovery is not expected to occur next year and online shopping and adapting to new business conditions will continue.

He underlined that the ten strongest retailers account for 80% of the market which is very competitive as can be seen with the arrival of Eurospin in the midst of the pandemic. "Despite that, we do not expect any significant rearrangements on the market," said Zaher.

Online shopping increase by 14%

Head of HGK's retail section Tomislava Ravlic pointed out the permanent growth in online shopping which according to DZS, increased by 13.9% in the first six months of the year. "That trend was certainly boosted by the pandemic which restricted physical shopping," she underlined.

She too said that consumer habits are changing with more people turning to online shopping because of the coronavirus. Household appliances, IT equipment, clothing, and footwear are the most common products bought online with an increase in online food sales too, said Ravlic.

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