The biggest benefits of non-working Sunday for shops are obtained by gas station owners, who have expanded their product range over the past two weeks since the new trade law came into effect. Now, you can find oil, milk, salt, and sugar on their shelves.
The ban for shops to be opened started from Sunday 20th October, with the provisions of the new trade law, with a few exceptions such as gas stations, bus and train stations, and airports, kiosks, pharmacies. Prices at these privileged stores are much higher than in markets that may not operate on Sundays.
The Chamber of Commerce Board, on whose initiative the prohibition provisions were adopted for non-working Sunday, will have a session on November 8 and will discuss the implementation of the new law.
"We have received information that gas stations have expanded their range to such an extent that groceries from all product groups are on offer. Bearing in mind that we, for whom the trade is our primary activity, do not work on Sundays according to the Act, we consider this an obvious abuse of the non-working Sunday. A meeting of the Commerce Committee is scheduled for November 8th, where we will point out the non-compliance with the Law. In agreement with the Chamber of Commerce, we will call on the Minister of Economy. We expect the authorities to react because the law must apply equally to everyone, ” it was said to “Vjesti” from the company “Voli”, who was one of the proponents of introducing a non-working Sunday for all shops.
The Association of Petroleum Companies of Montenegro (UNK) told “Vijesti” that petrol stations with their facilities, however, cannot significantly endanger the consumption in supermarkets, because the level of trade with them is much lower and they say that there are no baskets or carts for groceries located at gas stations., which indicates that this is a short trade of the basic items”.
Asked if the amendment to the law was really fair to all traders, because the owners of gas stations used the non-working Sunday, whose shops, along with the increase in turnover on Sundays, sell products at significantly higher prices, from the cabinet of the Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulic, it was answered that in Montenegro the principle of free pricing is applied and that it is up to citizens when and where they will shop.
In shops inside gas stations, goods can be sold if, for the same, the facility meets the prescribed conditions.
As for the sale of food, as explained by the Ministry, following the Law on Food Safety, the Food Safety Directorate registers retail shops.
“Such certified facilities may also be gas stations if they own facilities where they place food on the market and if they have a decision on entry in the register of food establishments by the Administration. The register of the Food Safety Administration contains a large number of gas stations, which also have facilities for retail food sales, ”the Ministry added.
The Association of Petroleum Companies of Montenegro (UNK) admits "a clear increase in sales on Sundays for individual items", which they explain "says that citizens and tourists, while refueling, recognized the opportunity to buy some basic articles on Sundays, while the supermarkets are closed”.
“The increase in sales varies and depends on the location of the gas station itself, so traffic is higher in populated areas. Most often, gas stations, in addition to car cosmetics, oils and lubricants, sell cigarettes, drinks, juices, confectionery and other packaged food products, which are more or less standard and approximately similar in range at all gas stations across Montenegro,” the UNK said.
The association adds that "this increase for only one day is not so significant financially as sales at gas station stores aim primarily to serve customers of oil and petroleum products further, and margins and prices at gas stations are higher than those of standard supermarkets, so buyers only trade basic items, mostly to carry and use while driving.”
Asked by "Vijesti" whether it is true that the owners of gas stations expanded their product range, UNK responded, "that it is an individual decision of each individual gas station to sell goods at the facilities and that the decisions are sometimes seasonal."
“Some gas stations sell heating pellets during the winter, beach mobile during the summer season, car chargers, souvenirs, etc. It’s all a matter of management decision. Outside Montenegro, especially in the EU, it is evident that various goods can be bought at the gas stations. In terms of sales capacity and assortment, petrol stations cannot significantly threaten the turnover in supermarkets. There is no need for the public to favor, to this extent, the advantage of gas stations over supermarkets when working on Sundays. In our opinion, this does not contradict the law, it can only be an advantage for citizens or tourists, who, when traveling, expect to buy certain items to carry, drink or eat in cars at gas stations. Anyone who buys the groceries for their home will probably continue to do so in supermarkets as usual or where they think is best for them," UNK concluded.
Food can only be sold at gas stations with approval
The Ministry of Economy notes that every retailer who sells food products is required to comply with the Food Safety Act, to have equipment in place to store it, and to comply with the principles of good hygiene practice.
When asked if food can be sold at gas stations, UNK replied that "any gas station that duly registered its trade and received a decision from the Food Safety Authority can sell food, factory-packed products."
"We do not have information that has been defined which product can and should not be sold on Sundays, so we asked the Market Inspectorate to answer the same question. Owners of gas stations have the same interest, which is to generate profits solely following the law, which they do now. Some gas stations that have coffee shops or restaurants within their facilities can also sell and serve customers, sell pastry by permits from those in charge, ”UNK said.
The Inspection Directorate told “Vijesti” that their market inspection continuously controls the stores inside the gas stations.
Text by Milorad Milosevic and Goran Kapor, on November 4th, 2019, read more at Vijesti