Government loosens restrictions on the sale of goods and services to consumers

Government loosens restrictions on the sale of goods and services to consumers

Author: Kaja Baškovič

On 16 April 2020 the Slovenian Government published the Ordinance Amending the Ordinance on the Provisional Prohibition on the Offering and Sale of Goods and Services to Consumers in the Republic of Slovenia (»Ordinance«) in the Official Gazette. With this amendment, the Government loosened some of the restrictions and supplemented the guidance on safe performance of those activities that are allowed. With some exceptions, the changes will take effect on Monday, 20 April 2020.

The Ordinance temporarily prohibits any offering and sale of goods and services directly to consumers in the territory of the Republic of Slovenia in order to limit and control the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. In particular, the Ordinance mentions accommodation, catering, wellness, cinema, cultural and gambling services.

Even before the new amendment, the Ordinance provided for some exceptions: stores selling mainly groceries, including the sales of agricultural products, gas stations, pharmacies, medical and orthopaedic stores, other emergency services for ensuring public safety and health, banks, post offices, delivery services, newsstands and kiosks, agricultural stores, stores with food for animals, gardening and nursery stores, florists, garden and agriculture programs in stores, construction work on unoccupied construction sites or houses and flats allowing for no interaction with consumers, and offering and selling goods and services to consumers remotely.

As of Monday, 20 April 2020, the exceptions from the amended Ordinance will also cover:

  • stores selling mainly construction materials, technical goods or furniture,
  • specialized car and bike shops,
  • dry-cleaners and repair shops providing technical goods repairs and maintenance services,
  • repair shops providing motor vehicle and bicycle repair and maintenance services (e.g. paintwork, car tyre services),
  • outdoor services that are performed outdoor and do not require contact with the consumers (e.g. roofing, gardening),
  • personal pick up of goods or food with minimal contact with the consumers and
  • sports-recreational services performed outdoors, in outdoor sports facilities or nature sports areas that allow for maintaining a safe distance from others.

Two weeks later, on 4 May 2020, the following stores and services may open:

  • shops up to 400 m2 in size (except for the ones that are in shopping centres),
  • hairdressing and beauty salons and
  • animal care salons.

The Ordinance still contains specific provisions on opening hours (mostly regarding grocery stores), while some special restrictions are also introduced with the new Ordinance for purchases of persons from vulnerable groups in stores that mainly sell construction materials, technical goods or furniture, and for shops up to 400 m2.

Additionally, the Ordinance provides more detailed instructions that those companies, which are still allowed to offer and sell goods and services, must follow in their operations. The previous ordinance only stipulated that the National Institute for Public Health will determine the maximum number of consumers allowed in stores according to their size, whereas the new Ordinance explicitly refers to instructions published on the websites of the Institute and the Ministry of Health.

Among others, the instructions require that the customers must be informed in a clear and friendly manner that they are not allowed to access a service activity if they are showing signs of illness. It is mandatory for consumers to use a protective mask or other form of protection of the mouth and nose and to disinfect hands before entering the shops. Shopping carts, baskets, PINs and other items that customers can come into contact with should also be frequently disinfected. For increased safety, disinfectants must be positioned at the entrance, at exits and inside the business premises. The distance between people still needs to be maintained, therefore at least 20 m2 of space per customer must be ensured and the premises must be regularly ventilated. Also, distance of at least 2 meters must be kept between the consumers waiting at the checkout or in front of the premises.

The instructions also provide for detailed obligations of the employer regarding the protection of workers. For example, workers are, same as consumers, only allowed to enter the premises healthy, therefore the workers with fever should not be allowed to work. Workers should avoid persons who show signs of respiratory infection and remove themselves to self-isolation in case of contact with an infected person. They must at all times ensure proper hand and cough hygiene, wear a face mask when working with consumers and handle food safely. The Ordinance also explicitly states that providing employees with protective equipment and monitoring compliance with the above instructions is the employer’s responsibility.

The guidelines published on the above-mentioned websites may change, so it is advisable for businesses to keep up to date with the announcements of the Ministry and the National Institute of Public Health.