Citadel sues C A for alerting  consumers 

Following the article on the Consumer Association’s (CA) website entitled “Beware: Citadel’s Travel Insurance Hidden Limitations”, CA first received a letter from Citadel’s legal counsel where CA was told that should it not immediately remove this post from its website and publish an apology with wording  that will be agreed to by Citadel, Citadel  would then proceed “judicially” against the association “both criminally and civilly, for libel, defamation, and consequent damages.”  The letter is being reproduced below.

CA decided to maintain its stance primarily because:

  • What CA published was correct and factual, and there was nothing defamatory in what was written in the piece objected;
  • CA’s main role is to inform consumers about any lack of information or misinformation which traders give when describing their products or services;
  • Failure by CA to act in such instances would mean that it is abdicating from its role to alert consumers when the need arises, moreso when vital information about a product or service is not given or worse is given incorrectly.

Because of the above, CA didn’t succumb to the threats and left the article on its website.  Subsequently, Citadel sued us civilly. CA noted vis-a-vis the claims by Citadel that:

Citadel in their letter [through their legal counsel] tried to link our article to a specific complaint.  The article objected to is not specifically about the complaint.  CA referred to the complaint simply because during the investigation of the complaint CA noticed that Citadel was basing its position on ‘terms’ which were not factored in the actual terms and conditions provided by it to its clients. CA published the article because such a shortcoming could impact other consumers.  We categorically deny that we acted in an abusive or illegal manner as alleged by Citadel. CA cannot understand how highlighting such incidents amounts to libel or worse justifies the threat of criminal prosecution!

CA believe that as a consumer association it is duty bound to inform consumers of their rights and to ensure that consumers are given full clear and unequivocal information on the products or services paid for. This is especially important since Maltese consumers are ranked by the EU as being the third in the classification of those consumers who spend most on travelling.

Travel insurances are very important today. The current turmoil created by the unilateral cancellation of thousands of flights by Ryanair and the demise of Monarch Airlines, makes insurance policies vital for the mobility of consumers. Unless explicitly informed, consumers rightly assume that their full journey is covered as the journey does not constitute the first leg of the journey but the whole journey to their destination.  This is logical.

In the case of Citadel, it transpired that the interpretation of the section under which such circumstances fall depends on the definition of what constitutes ‘cancellation’ and ‘journey’.  However, the definition upon which Citadel seems to base its position as to whether certain circumstances are covered or not, does not feature in the information that consumers are given. Hence the reason why CA wrote article to which Citadel are so vehemently contesting even to the extent of stating that they are considering criminal proceedings!

If the definition used covered the whole journey one would understand that there is no need that such information is given to consumers as all circumstances except those explicitly mentioned would be covered.  But when the definition is a restrictive one in which only the first leg of the journey, consumers have the right to be informed as such limitation is an important characteristic of the product.  It is upon the characteristics of the product that a consumer decides whether to buy a product or not.

The definition which we quoted was given to us by Citadel through an email while we were assisting the said consumer to attain redress.  We leave it to consumers, especially those who require to change flights to reach their destination, whether to determine if they should be informed of such a restrictive definition:

‘Cancellation means cancellation of a journey by the insured person(s) before leaving their Country of Residence, due to illness etc.  Before the journey actually commences.’

We asked Citadel more than once to inform us where such a definition is included in their policy.  However, they did not do so as this essential definition did not form part of the clauses governing the insurance.  We are also reproducing the policy (see below)  which is given to consumers in order that readers may verify whether such important information which determines the characteristics of the product/service is included in the policy.

The Association notes that such unwarranted steps by Citadel only serve to strengthen our resolve to ensure that the rights of consumers are safeguarded especially in such essential sectors as travelling.

Citadel L C letter 100117

Citadel L C letter 100117 TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY – Advanced 2015 FINALV sent by Citadel 070117

 

No Prices on Display, 30 September 2013

As the weather was so pleasant, one Saturday I decided to catch the ferry from Valletta to Sliema.

I had a little time to kill, so I went to a cafe near the ticket booth. Not one single item was priced, even on the handwritten notice board showing a list of some of the available items.

I think readers can draw their own conclusions.

Gillian Snook,
Tarxien

Read letter published on the Times of Malta here

Fantasy Tours (1) – a very bad dream!

 

Logo_Fantasy.jpgFantasy Tours (1) – a very bad dream!

This problem exploded in the midst of the summer heat after consumers had paid for their tour.  A short SMS shattered their dreams as their dream holiday was gone with the wind!  For some the repurcussions are serious.  One consumer informed us that at risk were all last year’s savings!  Those who borrowed to get the money for their holiday found themselves having to pay for their loan  without getting their holiday!
What we know:
•    Fantasy Tours closed its operations on Thursday 8th August;
•    The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs made a public call for all those who had booked with Fantasy Tours to register their complaint with them and also to report their complaint to the Police;
•    The Consumers’ Association (CA) notes that their chance of redress depends on the conditions of the liability insurance that Fantasy Tours were supposed to have;
•    The CA also noted that, according to our legislation, local consumers were supposed to have a compensation scheme.  BUT THIS DOES NOT EXIST AS SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS SINCE 1999 DID NOT BRING TWO IMPORTANT SECTIONS OF THE LEGISLATION INTO FORCE;
•    The CA wrote to the Chairman, Malta Tourism Authority, to ask why the licence had been granted when there were already reports that this tour operator was not honouring Consumer Claims Tribunal decisions, why the two sections mentioned above 31(2) and (3) were not put into force and if the liability insurance that this tour operator was supposed to have  covers consumer claims after ceassation of operations of Fantasy Tours;
•    There were reports in the media that the Golden Travel Club a subsidiary of Fantasy Tours were operating without a valid licence for the last three years;
•    The CA writes to Minister Karmenu Vella to bring immediately into force sections 31(2) and (3) and set up the compensation scheme.
•    Minister Karmenu Vella answers that he will check and take necessary action
We will keep you informed and advise you of the best course of action when things are clearer.  To date we’re still do not have clear information regarding the situation of Fantasy Tours.

 

BEWARE: MIB’s strict interpretations – car

The responsibilities and rights of each party depends on the interpretation of clauses within a contract.  Interpretations depend on the party.  In the case of consumer affairs much depends on the interpretation of ‘a normal consumer’.  If this is not taken into consideration then the consumer would be short changed and would be denied of a fair deal.  That is what happened when MIB interpreted tightly a clause within the policy.

A consumer took an insurance to cover the contents of the car he was travelling with abroad.  When he was in Milan, he parked his car in a private parking covered by cctv and a security guard.  He placed his GIS and mobile in the car pocket and left.  The mobile was left behind as it had no charge.  On returning he found his car opened and the GIS and mobile missing.  He filed a report with the local police.

On returning to Malta, he filed a claim with the insurance.  Mediteranean Insurance Brokers (MIB) did not accept his claim as the car ‘was left unattended’.  After contacting MIB it turned out that they did not accept his claim due to the tight interpretation given to the word left ‘unattended’.

MIB contends that in spite the consumer took all the precautions which a normal careful consumer usually takes, the car was still unattended.  It turned out that for MIB for a car to be attended to requires the consumer to be seeing the car.

This is a ridiculous interpretation.  We contended that taking their interpretation, it means that a consumer whose claim would be accepted must be working in conjunction with the thief.  Otherwise no normal consumer would let someone steal the contents of the car before his very eyes!

Thus consumers BEWARE: this clause in real terms does not cover you!!   If you were taking an insurance policy to cover the contents of the car, think twice as you might be putting your money down the drain.

 

Fantasy Tours (2) – the latest developments

Fantasy Tours (2) – the latest developments
As we suspected the situation looks bleak for consumers as it was reported in the press that Fantasy Tours did not have a liability insurance to cover the damages it incurs on third parties.
Thus their only hopes now lie with two options – either to put a claim on any assets that the firm might still possess or else put a claim on the owners once they are found guilty of fraud.  In both cases there is a large number of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.  Even if these work out, the period of time would be a long one.
That is why, when the whole issue erupted, we contacted the Malta Tourism Authority and asked the following questions:
1     whether the indemnity insurance policy which was supposed to be taken by Fantasy will in fact cover the damages incurred by consumers.  We would also appreciate if you inform us of the procedures necessary to initiate redress;
2     why sections 31(2) and 31(3) of Cap 409 of the Laws of Malta were never put in force;
3     why the MTA in spite of the warning issued by the MCCAA did continue to issue the necessary licence for Fantasy to continue its operations.
MTA answered that consumers should ask what provisions there are in case of failure before they book.  It also expressed an intention of establishing a compensation scheme.
The Ghaqda wrote to Minister K Vella regarding the bringing into force sections 31(2) and 31(3) of Cap 409 of the Laws of Malta and thus set up a compensation scheme for consumers using this sector of the economy.
Minister K Vella answered within minutes that he will investigate the mattter and later on informed us that he already gave instructions to the MTA to take the necessary action to bring the compensation into force.  We hope that this will not take long to materialize as it will set the minds of consumers at rest and not look for travel agents abroad where there are compensation schemes
Another positive point which came out was that the MCCAA involved itself in this issue as it should be.  It is a positive point as during these last years it has become synonymous with the MCCAA to shove the issue on to somebody else when there is another authority involved.  We hope that this change in attitude will continue with the future.
In the meantime a group of 138 consumers filed a judicial letter against the owners of Fantasy Tours and its subsidiaries.

In the meantime CA is continueing its pressure on the Government to implement the compensation scheme.

 

BEWARE: MIB’s strict interpretations – luggage insurance

mib_logo-png.jpgAnother strict interpretation by MIB led to another consumer not being fully covered for his luggage.  The consumer took a cruise from another port.  Somehow the luggage was not taken on to the ship.  Thus he had literally to buy everything for the cruise.

On returning to Malta, he submitted a claim.  The insurance wanted to compensate the consumer for ‘delayed’ luggage since the luggage was returned to him AFTER the cruise and was offered a compensation of €400.  The policy had another term ‘lost/non-delivery’.  However, they did not use this clause for compensation.

We claimed that the compensation should be under this term as for the consumer the luggage was ‘lost/non-delivered ’ during the cruise.

Again this tight interpretation was denying the consumer the compensation a ‘normal’ consumer should expect.  We believe that the term ‘delayed’ covers a delay but having the luggage returned to the consumer during the voyage.  For the normal consumer the term ‘lost/non-delivery’ means that either the luggage is permanently lost or else it has not been delivered during the voyage.  If this was not so, then the phrase should only read ‘lost’.

Thus BEWARE as you might find that they will deliver you your luggage when back in Malta after your voyage and MIB will only compensate you for late delivery!

 

Piccinino’s elastic bikini prices

Last Wednesday, a consumer went to The Point to buy a swimsuit from Piccinino at The Point outlet.  She decided to buy a bikini priced €49.95.  However, at the point of sale she was charged €69.95.  When she protested the salesgirl called the supervisor and was given a discount of €4.

 

On our advice, she wrote to Piccinino protesting about this.  She received a message to call Mr Matthew Piccinino.  When she called she was asked to go to The Point again as the bikini has been reserved for her so that she could take it at the indicated price of €49.95.  Mr Piccinino also confirmed that he has the bikini her size and she could go and collect it.  She also posted her complaint on Piccinino’s facebook page.  As a response she was instructed to go and collect the bikini.

 

Some two hours later she drove to Sliema to get her bikini at the set price.  But wonder of wonders, when she arrived at The Point’s outlet, she was informed that they do not have her size.

She wrote again on the Facebook page but they removed her post.  She posted again and was informed that it was a human mistake!

Beware as the prices indicated may not be what you will be charged!!!

BEWARE: Powerhouse non-existent customer service

    BEWARE:  Powerhouse non-existent customer service 

In December a consumer bought a toaster Cuisiner Elegancefrom Powerhouse.  On using one of the 3pallets supplied the second time, the covering peeled off with the food.  She was informed by Powerhouse to contact theagent.  However, the agent is refusing tochange it.

 

     It should be noted that Powerhouse is responsible to replacethis toaster as this was bought from their outlet in Iklin.

The peeling off of the non-stick covering after being usedtwice shows that the toaster is not manufacture to the expected standards

Powerhouse was contacted several times by the consumers andour association.  However, we have notreceived any answer from Powerhouse.

BEWARE thatPowerhouse is not up to their responsibilities at law.

Cellefonic’s catch exposed

If it’s too good to be true, usually it is!  A consumer brought to our attention a Cellefonic advert in The Voucher Issue 81.  This advert was offering a series of mobile phones at very advantageous prices.  However, these could only be obtained once the consumer enters into a two-year contract paying €15 per month.  Otherwise, one has to pay a much higher price.

We phoned to confirm this.  As an example we took we asked about Samsung S5830 whose price was indicated €100.  However, you can only take it if you enter into the above mentioned two-year contract.  Otherwise one pays a hefty €175!  When asked why the difference as there was nothing indicated in the advert, we were informed that there is a sign “*pm 15”.

On inspecting again the advert there was no explanation of the asterisk.  Thus a normal consumer can easily take this to mean that one can pay by instalments of €15 monthly.

This is nothing but a misleading advertisement which is giving partial information to consumers and lure them to the shop.

We wrote to Cellefonic to inform them that their advert is nothing but a bait advertisement.  We also wrote to ‘The Voucher’ management informing them of this misleading advert.  We informed them of their responsibility both to inform consumers correctly and also of their responsibility towards other businesses who advertise in the magazine as their reputation can easily be tarnished due to the fact that they are advertising in a magazine with misleading advertisement.

Finally, we also wrote to the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority to take the necessary action.

 

www.onlineticketexpress.com

The Association is reproducing the following recent experience as told to us by two Maltese consumers who “thought” they had a well planned holiday (at least not until they dealt with this website):

“I had bought the football tickets. The game was on Sunday the 24th February. Friday early morning (the day we were to leave for Italy), I received an email asking us for our details because according to the Italian football game rules, the tickets must contain the correct details (including passport number) of the people who are going to watch the match. I sent the passport scans via email. We did not receive a response from them Friday or Saturday. 

On Sunday, 2-3 hours before the match they called to say that they tried to deliver the tickets but no one was in the apartment (On their website they have DHL and TNT logos – however these do not work on Sundays because we checked). They asked us to pick up the tickets from a pick-up point and we did. The tickets were under the name of two other people but there was a name-change form which had our names listed. The tickets  were on the Inter side (not Milan as we had ordered) and at the last tier. £198 for the tickets and £30 for handling costs. A total of £228 – which according to their currency converter is 319 euros.

From our research it shows that this company has ruined many a holiday and they manage to get away with it – some people do get their tickets whilst others don’t. The fact that some do get their tickets is probably what keeps them functioning as a ticket site. I think it’s very unfair because although we got the tickets, they gave us a very hard time and bad seats on the wrong side of the stadium. This is not what I ordered and paid for!”