ZAGREB, March 15, 2022 – Consumers need to invest in the financial products and services they understand, and to do so, they need to be studied well – this was one of the messages from the conference “Consumer in the Digital Finance World” , held in Zagreb on Tuesday.
The conference was organized on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day by the Ministries of Economy and Finance, the Croatian National Bank (HNB) and the regulatory agency HANFA for the supervision of financial services.
HANFA Steering Committee Vice-Chair Ilijana Jeleč said digitalization offers a number of opportunities for consumers as well as pitfalls.
Access to financial services is easier, but there is a large amount of information that is not easy to assimilate and consumers are not always willing to study the services they buy enough, she said. , noting that this was particularly problematic when purchasing financial services and products.
Since these services and products usually involve long-term investments, it is very important to study them before buying them, she said, also mentioning social media investment frauds and offers. investing in cryptocurrencies.
Jeleč said HANFA has repeatedly warned that such investments are unregulated and highly speculative, advising consumers to avoid high-risk speculative products and invest in what they understand.
Stressing the importance of consumer education, she said HANFA invests great efforts in this regard, cooperates with schools and universities on youth education, and has launched a portal called “Novac za sutra” to inform citizens about financial services and improve their financial literacy.
The minister stresses the importance of consumer protection associations
Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that the National Consumer Protection Program 2021-2024 and the new Consumer Protection Law, which will enter into force on May 28, are documents dealing with the problems faced by consumers. consumers living in the digital society.
He said the department’s services answered more than 6,000 consumer phone calls and responded to more than 3,000 queries last year.
He underlined the important role of consumer protection associations, especially in the context of the upcoming introduction of the euro, scheduled for January 1, 2023, noting that the ministry had granted HRK 350,000 to strengthen their institutional capacity.
Central consumer protection principle of the bill introducing the euro
State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Stjepan Čuraj, commenting on the euro introduction bill, noted that the principle of consumer protection and the prohibition of unjustified price increases occupy a central place in The law project.
Talking about financial literacy, Čuraj said that according to a 2019 OECD survey, financial literacy in Croatia increased slightly compared to 2015, when a survey on this topic was carried out by HNB and HANFA.
The average score for consumer financial literacy in the OECD survey was 12.3 points out of 21 or 59%, while in the 2015 survey it was 56%. However, despite the improvement, the lack of skills and financial literacy was greatest among young people between the ages of 18 and 29, Čuraj said.
HNB official: Older people are the most obvious victims of the digital revolution
Data from the European Commission shows that in the first week of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of digital applications in the banking sector increased by 72%.
Commenting on this, HNB Deputy Governor Bojan Fras said it was interesting that these numbers had not changed more significantly following the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions.
The digital revolution is also good for banks and their customers, Fras said, but noted that older people are the most obvious victims of the digital revolution, unwilling to use not only online banking but also ATMs. ATMs and bank cards.
Speaking of consumer complaints, Fras said that in 2021, HNB had received and dealt with 906 complaints and none referred to digital banking services.