WHILE the past week’s news from Cyprus has been dominated by the bailout negotiations taking place between the government and the Troika, the European Commission has announced plans to strengthen enforcement against unfair commercial practices.
In a press release issued last week, the Commission has identified that travel and transport, digital, financial services and property markets are the major sectors where consumers continue to lose out and where more efforts are required.
The EU Justice Commissioner, Vice-President Viviane Reding said: “We have good rules in place to protect consumers, but we need to make sure they are better enforced, especially in cross-border cases. I want to see zero tolerance for rogue traders so consumers know exactly what they are buying and are not getting ripped off. That also means a coherent approach to enforcing the same set of rules.”
The press release coincided with the publication of the Commission’s study on the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC) in the fields of financial services and immovable property, in which Cyprus receives an honourable mention:
“The Commission has received a large number of complaints, citizens’ letters, parliamentary questions and petitions on problems relating to the purchase of property in Cyprus, Bulgaria and Spain.
“In Cyprus and Bulgaria property developers engage in misleading advertising by making various misrepresentations about the characteristics of a property and in particular omitting to disclose that properties sold would continue to be subject to prior mortgages for present and future bank loans contracted by the developers.
“The Commission is currently in contact with the Cypriot and Bulgarian authorities on these matters in order to find a solution to the issues raised.”
Black list request rejected
The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive contains a ‘black list’ of 31 practices that are deemed to be unfair in all circumstances.
The Cyprus Property Action Group was asked for its input as part of a review of the blacklisted practices being undertaken by the Justice Commission and urged that the withholding of legal title to property should be deemed unfair; a view that was supported by 42 MEPs in a letter addressed to Viviane Reding on the subject.
Regrettably, it would appear that the European Commission has rejected this request as the study reveals, on page 20, that:
“In the light of the enforcers’ experience and the feedback from the consultation, there is no need at this stage to amend the Black List.
“No new practices which are not covered by the Directive have been identified.
“It is, however, important to make sure that the criteria and concepts contained in Annex I are interpreted in a uniform manner, which can be done by enhancing the Guidance and the UCPD Database.”