Nobody knows exactly, but probably the first counterfeit dates back since the introduction of the coin in human society. Romans made a series of counterfeits, later on called "legal", by making coins of copper silvered. Roman soldiers fighting in enemy territories were paid with these coins. If they were to be taken prisoners, they did not want to lose gold or silver this way! (...) details... In countries where democracy and market economy are currently strengthening, countries that were led by dictatorial regimes or centralized economies, freedom has lead to a real explosion on the market of services and large consume goods. Taking into account that the legislation for the protection of intellectual property rights and trademarks in these countries appears and is strengthening with time, the state's control bodies do not always manage to fight efficiently against counterfeiting. Cosmetic products, medicines, textiles, food, cellular phones, music or software CDs, spare parts for motor vehicles, these represent a multitude of counterfeited products, thrown on the market, under renowned trademarks, for attractive prices. Who is losing from the sale of these counterfeited products? (...) details...

Interview with Mrs. Laura Pascu


Public Relations Coordinator of the Association for Consumer Protection in Romania
 
Please make a brief presentation of the Association for Consumer Protection in Romania.


This year, the Association for Consumer Protection in Romania celebrated 15 years of activity, as it was established in 1990. On that date it was the first nongovernmental organization with preoccupations in the field of consumer protection. The governmental structure was established only in 1992 as the Office for Consumer Protection, and in 2001, the Authority for Consumer Protection. APC Romania deals with the education, information and representation in court of the consumer as natural person, and it has some of the best experts in each field of activity.

Do you know how many associations for consumer protection exist today in Romania?


Today there are approximately 137 associations for consumer protection in the country, but not all of them are active. And in 2004, APC Romania signed a cooperation protocol with the majority of them because, in essence, we are all working in the interest of the consumer.

From your data, is the Romanian consumer informed on the dangers it exposed to when buying an expired or counterfeit product?


In the last three years, APC Romania had a significant evolution in the field of promotion and education of consumers by press, so in 2004 it had 1.100 press articles, and all this information reached approximately 600.000 readers. And yes, the consumer is more and more informed on his rights. Following the information and consulting provided, we noticed a change in the mentality f consumers in the last two years. If until now the consumers were bothered by fusty bread and dirty glasses, they began to be interested in contractual clauses, the counterfeiting of certain products, the appreciation of genuine products; they are calling to get information on how to choose a washer or a computer, and they are bothered by the attitude of economic agents.
Is there a dialogue between institutions in the field and civil society on consumer protection? If not, what can be done?


Yes, there is a close cooperation with State institutions. Since the beginning of this year there is even a closer cooperation than before.

Among citizens there is a confusion regarding the names of the associations for consumer protection. Do you think that citizens do not know the institutions in the field in Romania and hey are not aware of the services they can benefit of, preferring to address, in general, a single organization?


The civil society is not yet the fifth power in the State, we are not educated enough as to understand that civil society can really change laws, orders, structures, as it happens abroad. But we are on the right path, and in the field of consumer protection I really don’t think they are addressing a single organization, because all associations receive information, and the national Association for Consumer Protection receives most of them due to the fact that the Romanian citizen was educated that hen it needs help to address the State. As I was saying, the mentality of the consumer is changing….

What news did you bring from the World Day of Consumer this year for the Romanian consumer?


As every year, Consumers International, where APC Romania is a member, established a theme for the World Day of Consumer. This year we said NO to the genetically enhanced organisms. We organized seminars and consulting sessions live for radio broadcasting. As a difference from previous years when we were celebrating only the 15th of March as World Day of Consumer, this year we celebrated an entire week.

Whom do you cooperate with?


APC Romania is an affiliated member in Consumers International and the Association for Standardization in Romania, the Interministerial Committee for Market Products and Services Surveillance and Consumer Protection and cooperated with the Romanian Auto Register, National Authority for Regulations in the field of Energy, Commission of Abusive Clauses of NAPC, Commission for the Security of Products of NAPC, Romanian Distribution Committee (founder member), Consultative Council for Consumer Protection (Vice-President), Certification Body for Ecologic Products of the national Institute of Research and Development for Ecologic Industries, Certification Council of the Certification body for Quality Management Systems of ASRO, Certification Committee of the System Certification Body HACCP – Institute of Alimentary Bio-Resources, Surveillance Council of OCSMM – AFER, Consultative Council of ANRE; Centre for Consumer Rights of the State University of Souvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) – 1996, Balkan Centre of Consumers (Salonik) 1996. Should I say more? We are cooperating with all defenders of consumer rights...

what’s next after the “Consumer’s Guide”?


The Consumer’s Guide is a magazine addressing directly to the consumers and it is distributed in large shops in Bucharest. For starters we wish to develop this magazine and to broadcast it all over the country. What’s next after the Guide? We have already written a few books. I wrote a small handbook for consumer protection, Notes for Shopping, which was launched in Carturesti Bookshop recently. It s a booklet you can take to the market providing advices for shopping as to be protected. We are currently preparing for print two more books, a Dictionary for Consumer Protection, written by Mihaela Iacoban, and a Manual for Consumer Protection, written by Costel Stanciu, President of APC Romania. We are planning a few more books as well as the Infoteka computerized system, which reached eight volumes by now (Food, Consumer Credit, Consumer Rights, Condominium, Health Services, Home Appliances, Furniture, House Heating) and which we wish to extend this year by two more volumes.

 


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