ECONOMY

Firms insist price changes lawful

Four companies in the food and beverages sector – including three «heavyweight» multinational subsidiaries – yesterday protested at a Development Ministry decision on Wednesday to refer them to a public prosecutor for unlawfully raising prices in the process of changing over to the euro and beforehand. Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) said in a statement that its price list has been in force since November 26, 2001 after being submitted to the ministry in August and that prices had been rounded off according to provisions. HBC expressed surprise at the ministry decision. Representatives of Nestle Hellas also referred to a «misunderstanding» and expressed surprise in statements to the Athens News Agency. The company claims it had notified the ministry several months earlier of price rises it introduced in December, and that in the changeover to the euro, prices had been rounded off to benefit consumers. Pepsico-Ivi said that price «readjustments» that came into effect in December 2001 were not related either to the introduction of the euro or to rounding-off figures. «All rounding-offs were made according to legal provisions» and were to the benefit of the consumer, it said in a statement. Finally, Xifias fisheries said that on October 29 it had notified the ministry of its new price list which came into effect on November 20. The company claimed it had pushed through price rises neither during the switch to the euro nor on the grounds of bad weather. In another development, the Bakers’ Association said in a statement that any increases in the price of bread as of January 1, 2002 were unjustified and that the good relations of small operators with the consumers should not be upset by the actions of «certain few.» Officials said after a meeting of the National Committee on the Euro that isolated phenomena such as increases in the price of bread would not be tolerated, and warned that «restricted professions could be opened up.» Market freights continue improving, with Capers being fixed at better figures in the Atlantic, while the East remains lackluster.