A very important fundamental consumer right is the right to information. This right ensures that consumers receive all the information they need about the product or service they wish to purchase so that they can make an informed purchasing decision.
Without a doubt, knowing the price of products or services is the most basic information that consumers need to decide on a purchase. So, what are the rights of consumers when it comes to prices?
First and foremost, consumers should be aware that although they may sometimes feel that retailers are overcharging an item, there is no legislation that controls prices. This means that retailers are free to set the prices they choose.
As a result, consumers can find the same products at different prices. To fully benefit from a free and competitive marketplace, consumers have the opportunity to shop around and compare prices.
To enable consumers to compare prices freely, retailers have a legal obligation to display the price of all the goods they offer. This obligation is stipulated in the Regulation on the indication of prices, which stipulates in particular that the price indicated must be displayed in an unequivocal manner, easily identifiable and clearly legible.
In addition, the price indicated must be the final price and must therefore include VAT and all other mandatory additional costs, such as delivery costs. The regulations also stipulate that prices must be displayed either on the product, or where there are several items of the same type, size, type or brand, the price may be displayed only once, per example on the shelf where the products are displayed. .
When the products offered for sale are sold by weight or volume, the regulations require retailers to indicate two prices, one indicating the unit price and the other the actual price. Two prices must also be indicated on pre-packaged goods, including foodstuffs sold in pre-established or variable quantities.
When the price cannot be calculated in advance, sellers must indicate how the price is calculated-Odette Velle
With regard to prepackaged solid products preserved in a liquid medium, the unit price must refer to the weight of the solid food without the liquid in which it is contained.
Unit pricing allows consumers to make a more accurate price comparison and therefore assess value for money, as consumers can compare the cost of a kilo or a liter of similar products. It should also be noted that by law, sellers must display both the unit price and the sale price on or near the product where it is displayed. Although the unit price may be shown in a smaller font than the actual sale price, it should still be clearly legible.
While the Price Indication Regulations do not cover services, the Unfair Commercial Practices Regulations require sellers to inform consumers of the price of a service before entering into a sales contract.
When standard services are offered for sale, service providers must clearly display the list of services with their respective price in such a way that consumers can check them before committing to the purchase. When the price cannot be calculated in advance, sellers must indicate how the price is calculated.
It is also the consumer’s responsibility to ensure that they are fully informed of all costs incurred before committing to a sale. With regard to businesses such as restaurants, kiosks, cafes and bars, they must display a list of prices so that consumers can consult them without having to enter the premises.
In situations where an erroneous price is quoted, retailers cannot deliberately mislead consumers, but they are allowed to make a genuine error.
Thus, if the price is marked lower, consumers do not automatically have the right to purchase the goods at the marked price. This means that the retailer can refuse to sell the item at the wrong listed price and the consumer can choose not to buy the product at the new listed price.
However, once such errors are discovered, the incorrect price should be rectified immediately.
The Office for Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Directorate monitors compliance with these regulations by carrying out regular spot checks at outlets in Malta and Gozo.
Consumers can also ensure compliance with these regulations by reporting any missing pricing via the “contact us” form on the MCCAA website below or by calling 8007 4400.
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