Following the abolition of the state of emergency in the country, on May 7th 2020, the Decree on Measures for Prevention and Suppression of the Infectious Disease Covid-19 was passed (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 66/2020), which, among other things, provided that legal entities and entrepreneurs (employers) who sell goods or provide services in shopping centers and similar facilities, and which includes the sale of goods and services in shops that are entered from a larger enclosed space, are obliged to, in relation to employees and service users, apply all preventive measures that affect the safety and health of employees and service users, especially those related to preventing the spread of infectious disease COVID-19 (organizing the work process that provides a limited number of people in the premises, maintaining physical distance between two people of at least two meters, providing services using glass, plastic or similar barriers, mandatory disinfection of rooms, floors and other means of work (furniture, machines, tools) after the service has been provided to each individual user, mandatory use of protective equipment (protective masks), providing a written plan of protective measures, which is an integral part of the act on risk assessment issued in accordance with law and regulations in the field of health protection and safety at work.
Acting on the proposal of the Trade Association of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanović Batut” submitted an interpretation of Articles 6 and 7 of this Regulation.
According to the interpretation, the use of masks by employees and customers is OBLIGATORY when entering retail stores. Every consumer is obliged to wear a protective mask, and if the consumer does not have it, shopping centre or retail store is obliged to enable him to buy it in the premises.
Also, the supervision and control of application of preventive measures (hand disinfection and the use of protective masks) is performed by a specially designated person at the entrance to the shopping center, while in the shops it is done by the employees.
After reading this interpretation, the following questions arise:
Will you refuse to provide a service or sell the goods, to a customer who enters your store if he does not wear a protective mask?
Are there any protective masks among the goods you sell?
At what price will you sell the mask to your customers?
Will you be fined in the amount of 200,000 to 1,000,000 dinars, if a sanitary inspector notices a customer not wearing a mask in your premises?
According to the basic principles of trade, trade in the market is done freely. Restrictions on the freedom to trade are prohibited. Exceptionally, a restriction on the freedom of trade may be temporarily introduced in the manner and under the conditions prescribed by law. State bodies and organizations authorized by law to enact toward restricting trade liberty (as well as in matters of supervision) are obliged to act in proportion to the reasons for the restriction regarding the scope, manner, conditions and duration of those restrictions. Merchants, on the one hand, are obliged to act in accordance with business morals and good business practices in their business – you should not refuse to sell goods to a buyer who accepts your sales offer. On the other hand, the trader is obliged to harmonize his activities with public health care and to support and participate in programs and activities proposed, implemented and coordinated by Public Health Institutes (as bearers of activities in the field of public health).
By interpreting all the conflicting provisions, we come to the conclusion that, in the current circumstances of the pandemic, every trader has a duty to adjust their business with the measures provided by the Public Health Institutes.
It is up to each trading entity to devise how to adequately align their business interest with the public interest, and to that end persuade their consumers to comply with these measures, bearing in mind that there is a high probability that a sanitary inspector who come across a customer without a protective mask in your store will , at least isue a warning to you, as a trader. In thiss occasion inspector is authorized to initiate misdemeanor proceedings against the legal entity and the responsible person in the legal entity, in which a fine in the maximum amount of 1,000,000 dinars is threatened (Law on Public Health, ” Official Gazette of RS ”No. 15/2016).
Disclaimer: This text is written for informational purposes only as well as to give general information and understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. For any additional information feel free to contact us.