Energy Minister George Papanastasiou invoked the name of late United States President John F Kennedy in a speech to mark World Consumer Rights Day on Friday.

He said, “as is well known, March 15 was established as World Consumer Rights Day by the United Nations in memory of a monumental speech delivered to Congress in 1962 by John F Kennedy.

“Consumers, according to President Kennedy, are perhaps the largest part of the economy, influencing, and being influenced by, almost every public or private economic decision.”

He added that Kennedy had said, “the consumer is not a weak person who needs to be protected, but the most important person in the world.”

Moving on to the present, Papanastasiou said, “the economic and social challenges consumers face every day have in recent years been added to by the serious effects of global crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy crisis.”

These crises, he said, in addition to what he described as “the recent conflagration in the Middle East”, have “created conditions of economic instability and high inflation.

“For every household, higher prices of goods and services, energy costs, and high interest rates are eroding the purchasing powers of wages, particularly impacting vulnerable groups of people.”

He said both the government and his ministry are “listening” to the difficulties consumers are facing and are “committed to finding solutions and targeted support measures.”

He added, “our main thought and priority is the introduction of cheap energy, so that businesses and consumers can substantially benefit.”

This, he said, will go hand in hand with “active promotion” of renewable energy sources and energy conservation, as evidenced by the recent launch of the “Photovoltaics for All” scheme.

He said that through this plan, “our goal is to give as many household consumers as possible the opportunity to produce their own energy through the installation solar panels.”

He also touched on the planned “e-basket” scheme, which, he said, “will provide the necessary transparency and day-to-day information on the prices of important household products.”

He added that the “e-basket” will allow consumers “to compare shopping basket prices” between different shops.

In addition, he referred to a bill which, if passed into law, will give the government the power to set maximum retail prices on various products at specific points of sale. The bill won cabinet’s approval earlier this month.

He also pointed out the government’s policy of zero VAT on some essential products, which Finance Minister Makis Keravnos had last week said saves consumers eight per cent on their weekly shops.