ECONOMY

Gov’t indicates ‘wind of change’ in market mechanisms

Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said the government is against policing the market by setting price limits – a practice in which its predecessor engaged unsuccessfully because it failed to implement its laws on control mechanisms. Speaking at a Consumer Institute (INKA) event on World Consumer Day yesterday, he cited as a characteristic example the Competition Commission, which to date has restricted itself to business concentration, remaining essentially inactive in the market. «In Greece, everything is left to chance and to the patriotism of businessmen,» he said, adding that there must be a wind of change and rapid adaptation to European realities. Papathanassiou said the government plans to boost competition, fight market rackets, bring about a reduction in production costs, support consumer organizations and ensure the implementation of the legal framework. Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Drakoulis Fountoukakos highlighted the importance of the role of consumer organizations today, given the power of modern media, the Internet and the growth of advertising. «More must be done to reform labor and product markets so as to sharpen competition that will lead prices to fall,» he said. Synaspismos Left Coalition party leader Nikos Constantopoulos, who also spoke at the INKA event, said consumer protection could not be left to the self-regulation of the market, noting that previous governments were ineffective in this field and businesses did not comply with the relevant legislation. He proposed that Greece become a zone free of genetically modified products. Euro MP Meni Malliori said health should be added to school syllabuses as a subject, and that bringing the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) under the Health Ministry was not advisable as controls should extend beyond the primary sector to manufacturing. Separately, the Consumers’ Protection Center (KEPKA), called on the government and traders to urgently adopt special measures to facilitate the disabled in their daily transactions. KEPKA officials told an event in Thessaloniki that disabled individuals represent 10 percent of the consumer public, while adding that senior citizens and people with mobility and other difficulties at some point in their lives could bring the percentage of those requiring special facilities close to 50 percent. The number of complaints received by KEPKA in 2003 rose by 40 percent, with 99.7 percent of them resolved in favor of the consumers after it made representations to the retailers.