Commission preparing comprehensive plan for consumer protection in EU The European Commission will introduce an ambitious batch of measures for consumer protection throughout the Union, the commissioner responsible for health and consumer protection, David Byrne, announced at an informal 25-EU ministerial meeting in Eretria, Evia, yesterday. The package will include a data bank with information on European legislation, the creation of a public authority in each member state to prevent violators based in other countries from escaping justice, and a single legal framework for dealing with unfair commercial practices such as aggressive marketing, misleading advertising, inadequate after-sales service, refusal to accept returned articles or compensate and provide guarantees. Byrne said his proposals on unfair practices, to be unveiled next month, will include penal recommendations. He estimated the new framework will be applicable in about two years’ time and said it will aim to deter systematic fraud, particularly through the Web. Alpha Bank projects 2003 results not as good as first quarter’s Alpha Bank’s 2003 results are not expected to match those of the particularly satisfactory first quarter, the bank’s chairman Yiannis Costopoulos told the annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday. The significant thing is that profitability from core activities is developing well, he said. Costopoulos defended the buyout of Ionian Bank in 1999, saying that without it Alpha would not be Greece’s second-largest bank today and in the top tier with National Bank. Alpha’s top two priorities are the maintenance of its leading position in Greece and expansion in southeastern Europe, he said. On Tuesday, Alpha posted 90 percent growth in first-quarter group profit after tax and minorities to 60 million euros year on year, above market expectations. Shareholders approved a 0.40 euro per share dividend payout. Fear not for economy April inflation, due to be announced today, will be «impressively de-escalated» while the first-quarter growth rate will be «considerably above our expectations,» Deputy Economy Minister Giorgos Floridis told Parliament. He said the excessive, 25 percent rise in public expenses in that period was due to extraordinary payouts of benefits, allowances and social security contributions that will not continue into the rest of the year. IAS Although a large number of Greek firms are ready to apply International Accounting Standards (IAS), the time of their universal application is related to the overall degree of preparedness but still may be earlier than other EU members, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told Parliament, which passed the bill on Accounting Standardization. The manner of application will be set by future ministerial decisions, he added. The new law also deregulates the profession of chartered auditor, while a draft bill in the works deregulates that of chartered surveyors. UBS The Capital Market Commission (CMC) fined UBS investment bank 330,000 euros on the grounds of trading in several equities on its own account a few days before releasing recommendations on them. CMC said it took into account the fact that UBS did not make a substantial profit from the transactions.