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Cyprus

Opposition parties propose stricter penalties for shop hour violations

Opposition parties said Thursday they were submitting a bill providing for stricter penalties for shops which violated working hours.

AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said the fine for first offenders would increase from up to €30,000 to up to €50,000 and jail time to two years instead of one.

Second time offenders could be fined up to €70,000 and three years in jail, he added.

If an owner breaks the law for the third time, a court would have the authority to close the shop for up to six months.

The bill also includes stiffer penalties for people who obstruct ministry inspectors – jail time increases from three to six months while the current €5,000 fine is doubled.

Second time offenders could face nine months in jail and a €20,000 fine.

It also allows inspectors to report the owner and notify them in writing to close the shop. If they do not comply, the authorities can confiscate any items, means, or vehicles used to operate the business.

The ministry will also be obliged to send the House Labour Committee a list with all the shops they reported every three months.

The bill was supported by AKEL, EDEK, the Green Party, and DIKO MP Angelos Votsis.

It is the latest twist in a protracted dispute between parliament and government over shop hours, which is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court next month.

The case concerns government regulations, rejected by parliament, that allowed shops to be open on Wednesday afternoons and Sundays.

The state is seeking a ruling that “parliament’s decision, dated December 10, 2015, which rejected the regulations the Cabinet approved regarding shop opening hours, violates the principle of separation of powers and is invalid.”

The state is also asking for a ruling that the rejected regulations continued to be valid and should come into force immediately.

Although on December 3 the Supreme Court found a parliament law regulating shop hours unconstitutional, arguing the right to regulate the policy was solely the government’s, a week later, lawmakers nevertheless put it to vote.

Rejected by majority, the decision meant a 2006 law regulating shop hours returned into force as of January 2.

This law will allow bakeries and kiosks to open on Wednesday afternoons and Sundays, but the rest will remain closed or be threatened with a fine.

However, the law has been defied by most retailers, which continued to open on Wednesdays and Sundays, despite the sanctions they face.

Retailers accused parliament on Thursday of killing enterprise.

“The efforts of some MPs to intimidate by approving unnecessary, tough, and disproportionate penalties whose aim is to terrorise, are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes,” they said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these MPs consider themselves above the constitution and the Supreme Court decisions, violating the constitutional rights of shop owners and workers and at the same time ignoring the preferences of the vast majority of consumers and the loss of jobs.”


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