Outcome of the Expert Meeting in Malta

On the 13 and 14 March 2017 BEUC held two meetings of the 2nd Enforcement Steering Group & Redress Expert Meeting in Malta. The first session discussed various enforcement issues, including specific cases, which BEUC is currently investigating through the collaboration of various consumer organisations members of BEUC. These cases included the campaigns related to ‘connected toys’ with a presentation by NCC BEUC’s Norwegian member. Other cases discussed involved practices concerning Pokeman Go and the use of the so-called ‘floor clauses’ in mortgage (home loans) agreements. The group also discussed briefly recent developments relating the Volkswagan emissions case.

In the second session the BEUC secretariat prepared a presentation focusing on the impact of internet on consumer choices and what steps can be taken to ensure that consumers are better informed when buying through the internet. In this regard various suggestions were discussed focusing on more coordinated action between member associations including sharing of information and of possible unfair practices. In this context presentations were made relating to new initiatives relation to enforcement cooperation, the General Data Protection Regulation and the work relating to the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network.

The second day focused on collective redress with a tour de table amongst those present updating measures in each member state concerning collective redress. Following a presentation by BEUC as to the possible issues that can be raised to promote more effective means of collective redress through the EU, a lengthy discussion ensued as to what requests should be made to the EU in this regard including the feasibility of having a directive in place to ensure that certain minimum measures are adopted.

The Consumer Association – Malta is always represented in these Expert meetings as apart from the collective actions that we participate we also take advantage of the expertise in this group to learn how other consumer organisation tackle consumer issues that Maltese consumer face.


The Consumers’ Association wish to welcome the participants to the Second Enforcement Steering Group Meeting & Redress Expert Meeting which is being organised by BEUC in Malta.

We wish every success to this meeting as the subjects to be tackled during the meeting are of direct interest to Maltese consumers.  Amongst them one finds the developments in the VW case and further enforcements action by BEUC members.  Another topic to be discussed is enforcement in the field of internet of things which also includes connected toys, an example of which is My friend Cayla which we featured some months ago.

Mothercare – the first step has been take but….

Geoblocking restricts the rights of consumers to buy from wherever they want.  Online shopping facilitated shopping across borders – something which for a small country like ours is vital for the consumer as the choice is limited and prices are high.  This opportunity to buy online put pressure on local providers to increase choice and reduce prices.  However, online shopping also made it easier to restrict shopping across borders as it is easier to identify the location of the consumer and thus block.

During the past year, within the EU steps were taken to restrict geo-blocking.  However, enforcement, as usual, is weak.  At the beginning of January, the Association tested two sites – Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.  In both cases, we noticed that Maltese consumers were not allowed to shop from the UK websites.

The Association wrote to both Marks & Spencer and Mothercare protesting that geoblocking on their sites is discriminating against Maltese consumers and we informed both that we would be launching a campaign against them.   In both cases, it was noted that when one tried to shop from their websites, one is in the final stages of ordering a product and is asked to insert the location where the products should be sent, Malta was not included on the list of countries where products could be delivered.

We are glad to note that in the case of Mothercare the first steps to end geoblocking had been taken.  In the case of Mothercare, one could ask for the products to be sent to Malta.

However, this is only the first step.  The attraction of  Mothercare website has been marred as one would still not be able to buy many of the offers.  Apart from this, the postage charges that they are asking are exorbitant and in most cases higher than the product itself.

As we said the first steps had been taken but it is a long way to ensure that consumers would really benefit from the Single Market.

AGM – 2017

Consumer’s Association

Annual General Conference 2017


The Annual General Conference will be held on Tuesday 28 March 2017 at Associations’ office, South Street Valletta at 6.00pm.

Nominations for the post of Chairman, General Secretary, Financial Secretary and Members on Council will be received from registered members till 24 ta’ March 2017.  Nominations are to be signed by the nominated person, the person nominating the candidate and another member and be sent to the General Secretary 47A South Street Valletta.


E Chetcuti

Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi

10 March 2017

Marks & Spencer – discriminates against Maltese consumers

Geoblocking is supposed to have finished but most firms who have at least an outlet in Malta still continue this practice.  Marks & Spencer is one of them.  In the coming weeks we would also mention other firms which discriminate against consumers who live in Malta.

Geoblocking has several detrimental effects.  On a European level, it disregards the objective of working towards a Single Market.  On a national level, it discriminates against consumers on the basis of nationality.  Consumers in such situations as in Malta would be both restricted in the choice and also have to pay a higher price.  The range of products and special offers which are offered online are usually much wider.  Apart from this, the products are not the latest that the firm offers and the prices are much higher.

As we said Marks & Spencer discriminates against consumers who live in Malta.  On visiting the site (http://www.marksandspencer.com/), everything is normal until one reaches the insertion of the address.  As one opens the country, one finds that Malta is missing (see picture).  Thus one will not be able to continue with the purchase.

We wrote to Marks & Spencer but to date, we did not receive any reply.  We will continue our pressure on such traders who discriminate against consumers who are living in Malta.

On your part, would you continue to buy from a firm or its local outlet which discriminates against you?!


3rd March 2017

Consumer Wins

The months of January and February 2017 can be marked as two months which were synonymous with consumer wins in the telecommunications area.  This is the result of the work which had been done behind closed doors by the Maltese Presidency both in Malta and in Brussels.

The first consumer win was with regard to roaming charges.    In October 2015 the EU decided to abolish retail roaming fees as of June 2017. But there was one final step for that new rule to be applicable: wholesale markets needed to be reformed.  In the meantime pressure started mounting on the EU by telecom operators to postpone and keep roaming charges high.

In June 2016 the European Commission published a proposal to reform the wholesale market. In just 7 months, the EU co-legislators agreed on this reform. Consumer organisations, including ours, are quite satisfied with the end-result. The new wholesale price caps are as follows:

o   Voice: 3.2cents/min

o   SMS: 1cent/min

o   Data:

  • 2017: 7.7€/Gb
  • 2018: 6€/Gb
  • 2019: 4.5€/Gb
  • 2020: 3.5€/Gb
  • 2021: 3€/Gb
  • 2022: 2.5€/Gb

This was a result of the work done by the Maltese Presidency which took over from the Slovakian Presidency at the beginning of this year and made this challenge as a key political priority.  This involved working up a deal between the institutions. This was not an easy task especially as some big member States such as Germany and France have been very strongly pushing against a significant decrease of these wholesale prices.

The significance of this deal can be seen from the fact that at April 2016 consumers used to pay 200€ for 1 GB of roaming data.  As from June they will be paying 7.7€/Gb.

The second win which occurred in the beginning of February deals with online subscriptions when travelling.  More and more consumers pay for subscriptions to watch TV series or listen to music.  Currently, consumers are often blocked from accessing their paid-for music streaming, video game or video-on-demand services when travelling to another EU country.

However, a deal which was reached at the beginning of February between European Parliament and Member State representatives would allow consumers who travel to another EU country to use their online subscriptions – for instance their Amazon Prime or Netflix streaming service – when abroad.

These new rules will apply to all current and new subscriptions without extra charges or time limits.

Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), commented:

“This is very good news for EU consumers. Artificial barriers blocking you from using your online video, music or game subscription contradict the very principle of a single market. Today we are getting one step closer to a digital single market that delivers for consumers.”

Now that roaming fees are becoming a thing of the past people will really benefit from their paid-for content when travelling.




Be Careful! Internet connected toys

Christmas is near and most have already started buying presents.  These when directed at children are usually toys and the latest most advanced are usually the most attractive and the first choice.

This year internet connected toys were introduced on the European Market and though locally, as far as we know, are not available they can be obtained online.   Recently, the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) examined three toys Hello Barbie, My Friend Cayla and i-Que.  The first two are dolls and are directed at girls while the third is a robot directed at boys.

In its analysis at the terms and the technical features NCC found that there is a serious lack of understanding of children’s rights to privacy and security.

The toys fail at several points

In their review of the toys, the Consumer Council has found several serious issues:

  1. Lack of safety
    With simple steps, anyone can take control of the toys through a mobile phone. This makes it possible to talk and listen through the toy without having physical access to the toy. This lack of safety could easily have been prevented, for example by making physical access to the toy required, or by requiring the user to press a button when pairing their phone with the toy.


  1. Illegal user terms
    Before using the toy, users must consent to the terms being changed without notice, that personal data can be used for targeted advertising, and that information may be shared with unnamed 3rd parties. This and other discoveries are, in the NCC’s opinion, in breach of the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive, the EU Data Protection Directive and the Toy Safety Directive.
  1. Kids’ secrets are shared
    Anything the child tells the doll is transferred to the U.S.-based company Nuance Communications, who specialize in speech recognition technologies. The company reserves the right to share this information with other third parties, and to use speech data for a wide variety of purposes.
  2. Kids are subject to hidden marketing
    The toys are embedded with pre-programmed phrases, where they endorse different commercial products. For example, Cayla will happily talk about how much she loves different Disney movies. Meanwhile, the app-provider has a commercial relationship with Disney.

Consumer tips

  1. If you do not want the toy, check if the shop accepts returns. You can cancel the purchase within 14 days if you bought the toy online.
  1. Not happy with the toy? Let the shop and the producer know what you think. This might prevent toys with similar shortcomings from entering the market.
  1. Talk to your child about what the toy is and what it can do, and what it means that the toy is connected to the Internet.
  1. Check how the toy responds to questions. The toys come with many pre-programmed phrases, but can also get answers from Wikipedia.
  1. Remember to turn off the toy when not in use, so you have control over who connects to the toy.

You may view the video about the risks of internet connected toys HERE.

The following are the two reports published by the Norwegian Consumer Council.



Fantasy Tours – From Dreams to Smoke to a Solution

From dreams of a fantasy tour some years ago consumers faced the stark reality that they lost both their dream and the money forked out to make a dream come true went up in smoke when Fantasy Tours closed shop.  This happened because for a period of more than 10 years, in spite that Parliament approved, Ministers responsible for Tourism in two other administrations did not implement a provision which would have set up an Insolvency Fund to protect consumers when a package tour operator goes bust.

Consumers were encouraged to register to the MCCAA as they would be covered by the provider’s insurance.  In spite of this for a long period of time nothing happened and consumers were left in the dark.  Out of the blues, they received a letter from the same MCCAA that there was nothing that the Authority could do and consumers were encouraged to file claims against the Directors.

This was the situation when the Consumers’ Association – Malta decided to help these consumers.  We realised that this was no solution as the chances for redress were not only expensive both in terms of money and time but minimal.  The Consumers’ Association – Malta argued that the situation in which these consumers found themselves in was due to the fact that the State of Malta through these administrations did not implement these regulations and thus was responsible for the damage they suffered.

We organised these consumers who cooperated by providing us with the data of their personal experience.  We contacted the government and also provided this data for the government to assess.  The discussions took months but finally the problem has been solved without any expense to these consumers.

In fact, Minister Dr Edward Zammit Lewis announced this earlier this week in Parliament.  The Association would like to thank the Government especially the Prime Minister, Minister Zammit Lewis and Minister Dalli for their support.


We take this opportunity to thank Dr Antoine Grima who was vital in this campaign.  We also thank all the others, particularly a number of University students studying Laws and other volunteers within the CA, who helped to organise this campaign.




A Consumer Centric Energy Market


   gas.jpg Energy today is a very vital component in our lives.  Unfortunately we take it for granted.  It is only when there is a power cut, prices rise or we receive an expensive bill that we realize the importance of energy in our daily life. 


Views on Unaddressed Unsolicited Promotional Mail


DSC01746.JPGRecently the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change issued a public consultation on Unaddressed Unsolicited Promotional Mail in order to tackle this problem.