Sioufas warns profiteers

Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas yesterday issued stern warnings to traders against profiteering and duping the consumer, particularly in view of the Christmas holiday season. «We are considering the adoption of special measures against extreme attitudes in the market, with merciless measures beyond the especially stiff fines for those raising prices by more than the inflation rate. A free market does not mean a reckless market,» he told a National Consumer Council session. Sioufas acknowledged that there had been steep price rises and a hard core of inflation, which he attributed to high fiscal deficits, chronic market distortions and profiteering, but noted that inflation was at a four-year low. The National Statistics Service said on Thursday inflation in November fell to 3.1 percent from 3.2 percent in October and projected 2.9 percent for the whole year. Sioufas pledged to protect the consumer through effective market inspections and the operation of the General Consumer Secretariat and the new institution of the Consumer Ombudsman. He added the government is preparing legislation envisaging a three-month suspension of licenses for traders found adulterating products or delivering smaller quantities than paid for. For reoffenders, the license will be revoked for a year. The measure concerns heating fuel deliveries in particular. Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou acknowledged that in recent weeks, the ministry has received from manufacturers and importers dozens of price lists with many increases above the inflation rate which will go into effect from January. He said the lists will be published and consumers will be informed on previous price increases for individual products. Finally, he said the law on below-cost sales will be amended «because the government cannot prohibit the passing on to the consumer of suppliers’ discounts to retailers.»