Government pledges to combat profiteering during Olympics

The imposition of a price ceiling on fuel will not be an effective measure, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said yesterday. Speaking at the National Consumers’ Council, Sioufas promised, nonetheless, that everything possible will be done to avoid instances of price-gouging during the Olympic Games. The continued rise in fuel prices has led an increasing number of producers and retailers to announce their intention to raise prices. Yesterday, it was the turn of cheese producers to announce that, due to the rise in fuel, they will increase the prices of their products by 3-4 percent. «A price ceiling on fuel is an extreme measure» and, when adopted in the past, failed to produce the expected results, Sioufas declared. Tax cut proposal fails Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis declared that the government will bring the issue of lowering the special tax on fuel to the Council of European Transport and Energy Ministers next week. The government intended to raise the issue in the Council of European Finance Ministers (Ecofin) taking place in Luxembourg, but was dissuaded when other countries, and the European Commission, made it clear that an exemption for one country was not on the cards. The Commission would regard this cut as an indirect subsidy of the price of fuel. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis tried floating an alternative proposal for an automatic reduction of fuel taxes in case oil prices exceed a certain level. This proposal was also rejected because it was argued that it would give the go-ahead to oil producers to continue keeping prices high. Salagoudis announced that a meeting will be held today or tomorrow, at the Ministry of Development, with everyone involved in the oil market in order to discuss how to avoid excessive differences between the price of crude oil and the price of fuel at the pump. The ministry will send to the Regulatory Authority on Energy (RAE) a guideline of refinery prices for oil products. Indicative prices The government also fears that many merchants and hotel owners will consider the Olympics a prime time for making the profit of a lifetime. Sioufas called on participants at the Consumer Council to «isolate those who will consider the Olympic Games an opportunity for easy profit» and added that the government will crack down on profiteering. Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said that the ministry’s General Secretariat for Consumers will publish a brochure containing price ranges for a wide range of goods and services. The brochure will be used by all consumers and visitors to help them avoid paying excessive prices, he said. Papathanassiou added that the Games provided an opportunity to showcase Greece as a quality market with low prices. If this succeeds, the benefits will be felt over the coming years, he added. Sioufas said that the government’s consumer protection policy did not simply focus on the Olympics but looked to the long term. He announced the creation of the Office of Consumers’ Advocate, an independent authority that would undertake to resolve disputes by consensus. «The government’s goal is stable prices and high quality of goods and services,» Sioufas said.