Ahead of Black Friday unfair practices by traders discussed
Every day the Consumers Association receives complaints and complaints from consumers which increase especially during sales periods and Black Friday.
By Maria Herakleous
Discounts and unfair practices by businesses were discussed at yesterday's session of the Commerce Committee of the Parliament, also on the occasion of the offers, which have already started, within the framework of the institution of Black Friday discounts. The report of the chairman of the committee, Kyriakos Hatzigiannis, was typical, that the Consumer Protection Service seems to be unable to monitor the market effectively. For her part, the representative of the Service stated that an audit campaign is planned for the Black Friday period, while she referred to the results of on-site audits regarding the writing of false information on product prices, for 2022 and for the current year. Specifically, for 2022, 28,442 on-site inspections were carried out and up to October this year 20,025. In 2022 fines of 23 thousand euros were imposed and this year until October, 70 thousand euros. These fines relate to false information about the price of the product. Looking at the website of the Service, it appears that the amount of fines that have been imposed until October 2023 exceed 200 thousand euros, and concern violations of various types and topics. In fact, just last week, a fine of 10,000 euros was imposed on a well-known chain after an audit found that six products had a discrepancy between the sale price posted on the shelf and the price charged at the cash register, which was at the expense of the consumer. The Consumers' Association stated that it checks the results with its own observers, sends them to the Service, while wherever a violation of the law is detected which they cannot check themselves, they forward it to the Service. As mentioned, for all fines imposed by the Consumer Protection Service, a hierarchical appeal can be made and the amount of the fine reduced. However, despite the checks of the service and the Consumers' Association, the irregularities continue.
Fines of 180 thousand euros were imposed until October by the Consumer Protection Service, the 70 thousand relate to untrue information about the prices of the products.
Complaints are made daily by consumers at the call center of the Consumers' Association. In fact, when the sales season approaches, the complaints increase. As mentioned by the representative of the Association, Virginia Christou, there is no specific legal framework for discounts. He noted that the Association has a lot of complaints especially during the Black Friday period, when companies presented products at very low prices when in reality this was not the case. It has also been observed from company websites that they promote products at extremely high discount rates of up to 90% but finally, when the consumer arrives at the store, or chooses to buy the product online, he finds that such a discount does not apply.
The return policy of the companies is also an issue. There are even cases of paying an additional amount, for a simple change of a similar product, either in another size or in a different color. The return policy becomes more complicated during the sales season. For example, when a consumer buys a product during a sale and wants to return it, the company tells him that to get it back he will have to pay additional costs. According to V. Christou, during Black Friday a consumer may buy a product at a price of 20 euros, then want to return it or change it, and the company may ask for additional costs to change the product. Unfortunately we notice that only 8 to 9 companies apply the code of consumer ethics, he noted, while mentioning the Association's position that the specific code should become mandatory, so that all companies apply the same practice in matters related to discounts and returns policy, in order to protect the consumer.
He added that the supervisory authorities should increase local controls on businesses, while he raised the issue of publishing these data to give a clear picture of the prevailing market. According to the Consumer Protection Agency, even though discounts can be applied at any time during the year, by law the merchant is required to list the previous sale price – and the current price, or sale percentage, or both. . The previous sale price is always considered to be the lowest price of the product in the last 30 days. Therefore, a trader cannot put false price reductions, and is obliged to list the real price of the product. In any case, the fact that until October fines of up to 70 thousand euros were imposed on businesses for issues of price indication and the difference between the price on the shelf and the price at the cash register, clearly shows that the provision of the law does not apply in all cases. On the issue of product and money returns, the Service stated that returns are not legally regulated in terms of the physical store and the merchant is not obliged to make a change to the customer, but is obliged to have its policy posted at the checkout so that the customer knows consumer.
Questions about quality
AKEL Member of Parliament Kostas Kostas said that the issue of discounts is of concern to many consumers, since the advertising for sales differs from what consumers actually see. He cited examples of products being presented by businesses as discounted products, but without changing their selling price. It also raised questions about products being offered at a discount to consumers. For his part, the g.c. of POVEK Stefanos Koursaris stated that with the absence of a discount framework, anarchy prevails, with the result that the consumer sees discounts 365 days a year. Therefore, in essence it seems that the rebate institution has lost its momentum. So is the institution of Black Friday, since in Cyprus businesses proceed with offers that last a month, using the “hat” of Black Friday. As he mentioned, there is legislation on sales that also determines the dates of sales, which is applied in 15 countries in Europe, while Cyprus is among the three countries in Europe in which no framework for sales is applied (Malta, England and Cyprus). . For its part, OEB emphasized that the time when sales had specific timetables is over, while commenting that the change of 2016 and the withdrawal of the time frame for sales, has brought a positive sign for the retail trade. In any case, the control should be increased, emphasized Marios Antoniou g.c. of PASYLE, since where there are unfair commercial practices they constitute unfair competition to the shopkeepers who apply the law.