By Angelos Anastasiou
THE ROW between the government and small-business unions seems likely to extend farther than shop working hours and into sales periods, the set times of which the government wants to abolish, local daily Phileleftheros reported on Wednesday.
According to the paper, the cabinet has prepared a bill scrapping the commerce minister’s right to regulate sales periods, meaning a limited time period in February and August during which retailers may sell their stock at a discount.
The cabinet’s decision was the result of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, which argued that setting specific periods for sales, although in compliance with local law, violated a 2005 European Union directive on unfair commercial practices.
The case related to fines imposed on retail chain Ermes Department Store, the store’s manager Yiorgos Aneliades, and employee Andreas Solomonides, in 2011 by the Limassol District Court, for selling apparel at a discount outside of the ministry-mandated sales period.
The three appealed the verdict, and the Supreme Court found that the EU directive did, in fact, supersede local law, and overturned the decision.
In a similar case brought against the retail chain and other employees a year earlier before another district court judge, the defendants were acquitted.
Abolishing the clauses allowing the Commerce ministry to set sales periods would leave only retailers’ obligation to visibly state both the original price and the discounted one.
According to Phileleftheros, the government would like to see this bill passed as soon as possible, because the European Commission has been expecting this piece of legislation to be harmonised since September 2014.
Although the move is supported by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Cyprus Consumer Association, employers’ association OEV, and the Pancyprian Union of Retailers, a number of other bodies oppose it. These include small-business owners’ union POVEK, the Pancyprian Union of Apparel and Shoeware, the Pancyprian Consumers’ Union, and trade unions PEO and DEOK.
The dissenting groups propose that the commerce ministry initiates a dialogue so that a consensual arrangement can be reached.