Message by Dr. Chris Said

cs_large.jpgOver the last few years the Maltese Government has boosted different areas within the consumer and competition spheres to ensure that set objectives are met.  Several concrete initiatives with the sole aim of safeguarding the interests of the consumer.
 
Government has legislated and strenghtened the regulatory body in charge of consumer affairs;

  • regulated home loans; 
  • regulated consumer credit;
  • introduced legal metrology; 
  • introduced various standards to safeguard consumers;
  • and introduced and made possible class actions (collective proceedings).

Government, as the prime mover of legislation, is doing its part. However, we consumers need to play our part as well. Consumers need to join and support consumer associations because a consumer association has an important role to play and contributions to make. Well-functioning CAs act as whistleblowers. They provide community development, educate, create awareness, provide advice, and help consumers seek redress when needed.

In this regard, the Collective Proceedings Act which shall shortly be introduced to Parliament, will go a long way in facilitating CAs to fulfill this particular role. In fact registered consumer associations will now be able to access courts in order to claim compensation on behalf of consumers following a breach of competition law or consumer law by a private or public undertaking. The registered consumer association may claim damages not only for the members of the association but for all the represented persons who opted-in for the collective proceedings.

I sincerely believe that consumer associations should be strengthened in order to actively fulfill their roles.  This is what government is doing.

Chris Said

Welcome to our Website

bbb_l.jpgI wish to welcome you to the new website of the Malta Consumers' Association locally better known as the Għaqda tal-Konsumaturi.
 
Before proceeding I wish to thank Hon. Dr Chris Said, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Consumer Affairs, whose determined support made this initiative possible.  Likewise I also wish to thank the Council members for their constant contributions.  Last but not least I also thank the general public whose ongoing trust in our efforts encourages us to take new bold initiatives.

Primarily this website is intended to provide information to local consumers on specific issues taking place on the marketplace and secondly to provide a platform to enable consumers present their views and participate in discussions on various issues of interest. 

The success of this website is dependent on consumers' participation!Therefore I take this opportunity to invite everyone to share ownership of this website.  We do recognize that this website is not perfect and there is room for further development and we therefore invite anyone to come forward with any suggestions.
 
This is yet another opportunity to become active members of the consumer movement. 

Benny Borg Bonello
President
15th December 2011

Collective Proceedings gets its First Reading

Government recently published for public consultation a Bill on collective proceedings or what as it is more popularly known ‘class action’ whereby a group of persons with similar claims can join up together and make one single lawsuit. The purpose of this law is to enable people – including consumers – to undertake lawsuits which they would individually not have undertaken either because of costs, complexity of the issues or other reasons which may serve to deter a single claimant from proceeding on his/her own. Experience shows that time and again many consumers have desisted from seeking redress where at first glance they had a perfectly legitimate right.
 
This Bill once it becomes law will be an important milestone in the context of consumer law since it specifically purports to address this shortcoming. Interestingly the Bill limits the possibility of collective action to claims under competition law and consumer law, though Government has declared that the remit of this law may in future be exceeded to other areas such as the environment.
 
Significantly recognised consumer associations have certain rights including reduced filing fees. Ghaqda on behalf of consumers has made its submissions to Government on the Bill, overall commenting positively on the envisaged law. The main issue of disagreement is that which relates to opt-out as distinct from opt-in whereby Ghaqda believes that collective action should automatically apply to all impacted consumers rather than vice-versa.

Meeting with Hon Dr Chris Said

The Ghaqda on the 5th December 2011 had a meeting with Hon Dr Chris Said,Parliamentary Secretary for Consumers, Fair Competition, Local Councils and Public Dialogue about a number of issues which included Ghaqda’s representation, and the programme of implementation of a number of EU Directives such as Consumer Rights Directive and the progress on proposed legislation on Consumer Collective Redress. It is to be noted that re. the proposed legislation on Consumer Collective Redress there was a period of public consultation in which the Ghaqda submitted its views on the proposed legislation.

Meeting with OCA on Arriva Terms & Conditions

The Ghaqda represented by Benny Borg Bonello and Dr A Grima on the 22nd November had a meeting regarding some of Arriva’s Terms and conditions.

This follows a letter which the Association had sent on the 24th October 2011. Our complaint focused on the two issues. First referred to the section regarding Arriva’s Refund Policy which states:

Arriva Refund Policy:
Arriva has a no refund policy, without any exception. By purchasing tickets you acknowledge that you have read and agreed to the aforementioned no refund policy.

The second point raised was that concerning the following condition of service:

Conditions of Carriage
“In the event of the cancellation, withdrawal, delay, diversion or termination of any service, or in the event of the service being otherwise unavailable to you due to the service being fully occupied or otherwise, we shall not be liable for any losses, damage, costs or inconvenience that you suffer as a result.”

We believe that the above two clauses are unfair terms and thus should be revoked.

Moreover, during the meeting, the Ghaqda also pointed out that in the introduction the Conditions of Carriage referred to the following:

The Conditions are consistent with statutory regulations including, the Passenger Transport Services Regulations (S.L.499.56), the Authority for Transport in Malta (Enforcement Officers) Regulations (S.L.499.51) and the Consumer Affairs Act (Chap.378 of the Laws of Malta), and do not affect your statutory rights.

The above gives the impression that these Terms and Conditions had the blessing of the Office for Consumer Affairs.

In view of the above the Office was called upon to investigate the above also in terms of a complaint lodged with the Association.

Appell Dwar is-Servizz tat-Trasport Pubbliku

Illum l-Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi ressqet rikors quddiem it-Tribunal tal-Appell talKompetizzjoni u tal-Konsumatur sabiex tappella minn decizjoni mehuda mid-Direttur Generali tal-Ufficcju ghall-Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur fi hdan l-Awtorita’ ta’ Malta ghall-Kompetizzjoni u
ghall-Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur dwar is-servizz tat-Trasport Pubbliku.

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F’Lulju li ghadda l-Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi kienet ressqet ilment quddiem l-Ufficcju ghall-Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur, fi hdan l-Awtorita’ rigward id-diffikultajiet li l-konsumaturi Maltin qed jiffaccjaw wara li fit-3 ta’ Lulju gie introdott servizz gdid tat-trasport pubbliku permezz tal-kumpanija Arriva.  L-Ghaqda ressqet diversi ilmenti fosthom:

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1. Li filwaqt permezz ta’ fuljett fejn il-konsumaturi gew  imwieghda servizz tal-oghla kwalita’ u kumdita’ r-realta’ kienet ‘il boghod minn hekk u ghaldaqstant il-kumpanija Arriva wettqet prattici kummercjali mhux gusti;
2. Is-Socjeta’ Arriva  naqqset li tispjega l-kundizzjonijiet tal-garr u naqqset ghalhekk li tavza l-konsumaturi  li jekk huma waqt li jkunu qed juzaw it-trasport ipprovdut mill-kumpanija Arriva u jiskadilhom il-biljett waqt il-vjagg huma jkunu obbligati jhallsu nol iehor ghall-vjagg flimkien ma’ multa ta €10 ghax dak l-agir huwa meqjus bhala offiza;
3.  Li jigu mistharrga l-prezzijiet li qed jintalbu jhallsu l-konsumaturi Maltin  biex jipparkjaw il-vetturi taghhom fil-parkegg tal-kumpanija Arriva u dak tal- MCP Ltd. L-Ghaqda talbet sabiex id-Direttur Generali iheggeg il-kumpanija Arriva sabiex tniedi kampanja ta’
informazzjoni anke permezz tat-televizjoni minhabba l-fatt li ghad hemm konsumaturi li ghadhom konfuzi bis-servizz il-gdid u jigu spjegati ahjar il-kundizzjonijiet tal-garr.

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L-Ghaqda tinnota li d-Direttur Generali tal-Ufficcju ghall-Konsumatur ghandu l-poter li johrog mizura intermedjarja f’kaz ta’ urgenza u minhabba r-riskju ta’ hsara immedjata u serja lill-interessi kollettivi tal-konsumaturi skont il-ligi.  Ghalhekk l-Ghaqda talbet sabiex id-Direttur Generali johrog mizura intermedjarja u jistabbilixxi terminu, l-Ghaqda talbet sal-ahhar ta’ Lulju, sa meta s-servizz pprovdut
mill-kumpanija Arriva ikun dak li hija weghdet.

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Fir-risposta tieghu datata 19 t’Awwissu 2011 id-Direttur Generali naqas li johrog mizura intermedjarja u  rrisponda li hemm Awtorita’ ohra li qed tindirizza dawn il-problemi u li whud minn dawn l-ilmenti qed jigu indirizzati diga’ minn Awtorita’ ohra.

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L-Ghaqda ma taqbilx ma’ din id-decizjoni ghax temmen li huwa ghandu l-obbligu u d-dover, skont ilpoteri moghtija lilu mil-ligi, li jirrevedi u jigbor informazzjoni u provi sabiex jista’ jaccerta li s-suq tattrasport pubbliku mhux qed jolqot hazin l-interessi tal-konsumaturi.  Skont l-Att dwar l-Aaffraijiet talKonsumatur hija l-awtorita’ kompetenti li ghandha l-poter tinvestiga dawk il-prattici kummercjali mhux gusti u ebda awtorita’ ohra.

Avviz Legali 114

L-Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi nnutat it-tibdil li ser igib maghha l-Avviz Legali 267 tal-2011. Dan l-Avviz Legali ser ihassar l-Avviz Legali 114 tal-1998.  L-Avviz Legali 114 kien jinforza li rigward it-trasport ghall-iskejjel, il-prezz ghandu jkun iffissat ghal sena skolastika.  Dan kien igib mieghu stabilita’ tal-prezz tat-trasport ghat-tfal tal-iskejjel ghal sena shiha.  It-tnehhija ta’ dan l-avviz legali zgur li jhasseb lill-familji li ghandhom it-tfal imorru l-iskejjel ghaliex ma jkunux jistghu jikkalkolaw kif ser ivarja l-prezz tat-trasport tat-tfal tul is-sena.  

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L-Ghaqda hi kkonfonduta li dan jista’ jwassal ghal zieda fl-gholi tal-hajja ghal dawn il-familji. Ghalhekk l-Ghaqda kitbet lit-Transport Malta, l-awtorita’ kompetenti, sabiex tispjega x’wassal ghal dan it-tibdil u l-konsegwenzi tieghu.

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L-Ghaqda tfakkar ukoll li hi mhix sodisfatta bil-pozizzjoni li kien ha d-Dipartiment talKompetizzjoni dwar l-uniformijiet tal-iskejjel.  L-Ghaqda ghalhekk kitbet ukoll lill-Ufficcju talKompetizzjoni sabiex jergghu jibdew tahditiet sabiex il-genituri jsibu aktar kompetizzjoni
f’dan is-suq sabiex ma nergghux nigu ffaccjati bi prezzijiet gholjin fl-uniformijiet meta terga’ tibda s-sena skolastika

Il-Konsumaturi Ghandhom id-Dritt ta’ Servizz u bl-Ghazla

Il-kwistjoni li regghet inqalghet fuq id-distribuzzjoni tal-gass qed titfa’ dubji  dwar kemm ilkonsumaturi Maltin fl-ahhar ser ikunu jistghu jibbenifikaw mill-kompetizzjoni.  Ghat-tieni jum wara l-iehor, il-konsumaturi qed jigu mcahhda minn dan is-servizz essenzjali.
 
L-Ghaqda temmen li l-ahjar triq ghall-konsumaturi hi li tibqa’ s-sistema fejn id-distributuri jqassmu cilindri tal-kumpaniji kollha.  B’hekk il-konsumaturi jkollhom l-ghazla.  Min-naha lohra, l-Ghaqda temmen li kull distributur li hu kapaci li joffri dan is-servizz ghandu jithalla jaghmel dan.  B’hekk il-konsumaturi jkollhom rashom mistrieha li jekk distributur ma jkunx qed jaghti servizz tajjeb, xorta jkunu moqdija minn dawk li lesti li jaghtu servizz ahjar.  Dan il-fatt ikattar ukoll kompetizzjoni  fuq livell ta’ distribuzzjoni tac-cilindri tal-gass. {nl}

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Pero’, fil-livell ta’ distribuzzjoni l-Ghaqda temmen li hemm zewg kundizzjonijiet li ghandna naraw li jinzammu:

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1. li min qed iqassam ic-cilindri tal-gass qed izomm l-istandards mehtiega; u
2. li l-komunitajiet kollha huma iggarantiti b’servizz.

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Dawn huma kundizzjonijiet li ssibhom ghas-servizzi  bazici li min jidhol fis-suq irid jiggarantixxi servizz tajjeb lill-komunita’ kollha.  Fit-tahditiet li kellha l-Ghaqda mal-MRA aktar kmieni din is-sena kienet sahqet fuq dawn il-kundizzjonijiet ghaliex l-Ghaqda temmen li nistghu niggarantixxu dawn u fl-istess hin ikollna kompetizzjoni ghal l-gid tal-konsumaturi.
 
L-Ghaqda theggeg li r-regolatur, f’dan il-kaz l-MRA, ghandu jiehu d-decizjonijiet necessarji u minghajr aktar dewmien sabiex il-konsumaturi jergghu jibdew jinghataw dan is-servizz taht dawk il-kundizzjonijiet li semmejna mil-lum stess ghaliex ma jistax ikun li l-konsumaturi jibqghu jigu mcahhda minn dan is-servizz.

Il-Bejgh ta’ Xorb Alkoholiku

L-Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi ma taqbilx mar-regolamenti godda li ma jhallux confectionaries ibieghu xorb alkoholiku wara d-9 ta’ filghaxija filwaqt li  hwienet ohra jistghu.  Fuq kollox il-hwienet li ghandhom aktar mil-licenzja wahda ser jispiccaw fis-sitwazzjoni fejn ser ikollhom jaghzlu taht liema wahda ser joperaw.

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L-Ghaqda thoss li dan l-avviz legali jerga’ jnaqqas il-kompetizzjoni f’dan is-settur.  Dan ghaliex hwienet ohra, li normalment ibieghu xorb alkoholiku aktar gholi, ser ikunu jistghu jibqghu joperaw minghajr kompetizzjoni mis-settur tal-confectionaries..  Ir-raguni tghidlek li jekk hemm xi haga hazina fil-bejgh ta’ xorb alkoholiku wara d-disgha ta’ filghaxija, dan ghandu jghodd ghal kulhadd. 

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Huwa ghalhekk ovvju li  dan ir-regolament qed isir  biex jipprotegi lil settur wiehed tal-kummerc ghad-danni ta’ setturi ohra tan-negozju u tal-konsumaturi. Ghalhekk bhala konsegwenza ta’ dan kollu aktar ma settur partikolari jkun protett, ser tonqos il-kompetizzjoni u ghalhekk hemm il-probabilita’ li l-prezzijiet joghlew. L-avviz legali jkompli jghid li min ghandu aktar mil-licenzja wahda jkollu jaghzel taht liema
licenzja ser jopera.  Dan imur kontra l-izviluppi li qed isiru fil-qasam tal-kummerc.  Illum kull hanut qed jipprova li jzid l-ghazla tal-prodotti u din il-prattika diga’ tezisti fil-bejgh ta’ prodotti ohra.  Dan ghaliex generalment il-konsumaturi jippreferu li jixtru kollox minn hanut wiehed milli joqoghdu jigru minn hanut ghall-iehor.  Hu ghalhekk li ghandek konsumaturi li jippreferu li jixtru minn supermarket milli minn hanut iehor fejn l-ghazla ta’ prodotti differenti hi hafna izghar.  Hu ghalhekk ukoll li l-hwienet zghar biex ikunu aktar kompetittivi qed jaraw kif izidu l-prodotti differenti li jbieghu biex ikunu kapaci jikkompetu.

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L-Ghaqda thoss li dan l-avviz legali hu pass lura biex il-konsumaturi jkollhom aktar swieq kompetittivi bl-orhos prezzijiet possibbli.
 
Huwa ghalhekk il-hsieb tal-Ghaqda li titlob li ssir analizi dwar l-effetti li dan l-Avviz Legali se jhalli fuq is-suq mill-Ufficcju tal-Kompetizzjoni fi hdan l-Awtorita’ Maltija ghall-Kompetizzjoni u Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur.

Meeting with the Malta Communications Authority

The aim of this meeting was twofold. The first objective was to see how we can operate in view of the present scenario within the MCA’s decision, on “Modifications to the terms and conditions of subscriber contracts”, issued on the 11th October 2011and the OCA’s decision issued last September.

As a general point we expressed the opinion that we are in agreement to the principles laid down by the MCA’s decision moreover since they reflect those enshrined in the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act, particularly Article 23.

Our main concern is the voluntary agreement reached by the Office for Consumer Affairs, within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, which definitely has a bearing on the latest decision issued by the MCA, not to mention its past decision. Here we refer to that issued by the same MCA on September 2010.

The Association reiterated that the OCA’s decision does not address the issues faced by consumers and that it was more favourable to the line taken by the MCA to date.

Following further communications between the two sides the Authority proposed holding regular meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest particularly those faced by end users and to discuss initiatives taken up by the Authority in favour of the consumers.