By Constantinos Psillides
Parties will not support a government bill to scrap legislation regulating sales unless shops, when they do have discounts, are forced to display both the old and new tags so that consumers are not fooled into thinking there is a sale when in reality there is none.
The government had up to September 2014 to harmonise Cyprus’ legislation with EU directives which free up merchants to hold sales whenever they wished.
In the past Cyprus used to regulate sales periods until the system was legally challenged and though free competition won out, the sales law is still on the books.
Commerce Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis appeared on Tuesday before the House commerce committee to introduce the bill scrapping the law. The bill essentially removes the minister’s authority to issue decrees regulating sales periods.
MPs appeared determined however that retailers should still be obliged to display both the original price and the discounted one when they were having a sale, not just put up posters advertising possibly phoney sales.
Committee chairman DISY MP Zacharias Zachariou said that while his party wanted the legislation abolished, the government should ask the EU for permission to keep the two price tags.
“The consumer must be aware of the price discount. Everyone’s concern at the committee is to protect consumers and at the same time adhere to EU directives,” said Zachariou.
The bill is 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 retailers 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.
With the sale period requirements scrapped in all but name, the 1990 legislation is now obsolete.
Zachariou said the committee would look into the matter again in September, which will allow the government enough time to file a request with the EU and receive a response.
AKEL MP Costas Costa claimed that the court ruling affected only certain aspects of the bill and not the whole legislation, thus completely abolishing it was a mistake.
“Scrapping the legislation will create the necessary conditions to deceive consumers as a result of deregulation thus the ministry must retain its authority to oversee the market,” he said.
DIKO MP Angelos Votsis said that at the very least the bill should ensure that basics of consumer protection by forcing retailers to include both the original price and the discount.
Giorgos Varnava of EDEK suggested that the government must work with the Attorney-general to come up with a way to amend the legislation instead of scrapping it all together.