Consumer body warns of slimmer pockets and time unshared Consumer organization Union for the Quality of Life (EKPOIZO) has called for government intervention to prevent widespread abuse of consumer rights by slimming centers and time-sharing firms. EKPOIZO points out that such concerns use misleading ads and receive advance sums for services they promise to supply up to a year later. Moreover, in partnership with banks, they issue credit cards even to people who are mentally challenged. EKPOIZO notes specifically the cases of slimming chains Chic and Medi Jeunesse which have been out of business for three years but credit card holders continue to pay for services never received. Time-sharing firms are charged with improperly informing clients of annual costs, extra charges and how to cancel their contract. Gov’t peddles plan for leaner OA among labor unions The new, privatized version of Olympic Airways that the government is working on will be started with bank loans and is hoped to attract private capital at a later stage, Transport Minister Christos Verelis told civil aviation unions. The new company is planned to be endowed with only the carrier’s own aircraft, with other assets and services remaining in the old debt-ridden entity or splintered off. Verelis again pledged no jobs will be lost and that there will be restructuring and early retirement programs. He said the government will seek the broadest possible consent among unions. To date, only pilots of Olympic Aviation, the domestic-flights subsidiary have accepted the proposed plan, which, according to sources, includes a productivity-linked pay scheme. EU-Israel Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos in his capacity of presiding EU minister and Israeli Science and Technology Minister Eliezer Sandberg yesterday signed the EU-Israel Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation. The agreement provides for Israel’s financial contribution to the EU budget and the participation of its research agencies in EU research projects on the same terms as EU member states. Tsochadzopoulos said Israel’s investment in R&D is about 3 percent of GDP, a figure the EU is targeting by 2010. Similar agreements have been signed with the 10 new members and a number of other European countries, while more are planned with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and possibly Russia in Thessaloniki at the end of the month. Rate cuts National Bank, Greece’s largest, yesterday announced cuts in lending rates to businesses and consumers ranging from 0.15 percent to 0.40 percent, effective tomorrow. Mortgage rates will go down up to 0.50 percent, while deposit rate cuts range from 0.20 percent to 0.55 percent depending on the type of account and sum. Amounts up to 1,500 euros receive no interest. PPC The labor union of the Public Power Corporation is threatening a 48-hour strike if the government persists with revised plans for the deregulation of the energy market. Union officials told a press briefing in Thessaloniki that the subsidization of private power stations will weaken the corporation and will ultimately mean more expensive electricity for the consumer. Construction Private building activity shot up 20 percent in January-February, year-on-year, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced. The development is seen as largely due to the prospect of less favorable treatment of mortgages announced by the government. According to the Bank of Greece mortgages rose 34.4 percent in February. Intrasoft Intrasoft International, a subsidiary of the Intracom group, has won a 1.9-million-euro contract to design, develop, launch into operation and provide support services to the European Union’s «electronic bookshop» of official publications. Growth and deficit The Greek economy grew 4.3 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said. The country’s trade deficit rose 15.2 percent in the first quarter year-on-year to 5,362.2 million euros. Proton Proton Bank reported group profits before tax and minorities of 62,920 euros in its first balance sheet since being established over 12 months ago.