Gov’t to move on prices

The government is working on new provisions and the amendment of existing ones to improve consumer protection, Development Minister Christos Folias said after meeting with the prime minister yesterday. He said the ministry will announce a batch of measures designed to stem profiteering before the end of the month. They will be of a general nature, focusing on the strict application of regulations and stricter checks, while some will be for immediate application. Folias said the draft bill which will be submitted to Parliament soon will provide for uniform fines to be imposed by the various inspection departments of the ministry and prefectural authorities. Fines will be calculated as a percentage basis of turnover and may exceed 500,000 euros in some cases. According to an amendment, firms will occasionally be required by the ministry to submit cost data. If they refuse, they will be subject to fines in addition to the penal sanctions now applicable. To date, four in five firms asked to submit cost data have responded and pledged either to delay price rises or cut prices through offers and discounts. Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Vlachos told reporters a further issue being examined by the ministry is the amendment of provisions which set price ceilings in the so-called «closed» markets where customers have little or no competitive option, such as gasoline stations or mini-markets on closed highways, or canteens on ships. He said the ministry wishes to keep price ceilings but also make it obligatory for a canteen, for example, that does not sell small bottles of water to make the next largest size available at the same price. Asked whether the ministry would consider imposing a ceiling on gasoline prices on highways, Vlachos said: «We would like certain limits on some products and for gasoline prices to be kept stable.»