16 March 2005

The Web

Consumers have to be well informed on GM foods – Censu Galea
The Minister for Competitiveness and Communications Censu Galea said the Consumer and Competition Division is currently guaranteeing that consumer rights are safeguarded. He was speaking on the theme chosen by the World Consumers Association on GM food, which the Consumer and Competitions division was currently concentrating upon.
Galea said consumers had to be well informed before purchasing GM foods. The EU is currently also insisting that before any GM food is introduced in international markets, a testing process and a transparent system which holds producers responsible for any harm resulting from the consumption of GM food should be put into place.
The Consumer and Competition Division currently handles around 1,350 complaints every year by consumers, and works towards brokering an amicable solution for consumers before proceeding towards the consumers’ tribunal.
Last year, the division started an information campaign to make consumers more wary of their rights through the provision of leaflets explaining consumers’ rights as well as their obligations. Television programmes were also broadcast in order to publicise consumers’ rights and obligations.
Two quality service charters are also in the offing for the division’s operations and information directorate for the general benefit of the public to be informed of the service it can expect from the division. The information directorate recently applied with the EU to host a European Centre for the Consumer in Malta, in order to cater for foreigners’ complaints in Malta.
Galea said the protection of the consumer was all the more important today in a free market which operates at full competition. He said consumers can risk being at the mercy of the free market without anyone to guide and protect them.
“With the advanced technology we are facing today, consumers are encountering new products every day, and are enticed to buy and experiment products in attractive adverts without thinking too much… this is where we see the need for good information on all products.”
Galea said information was the consumers’ best weapon. “Apart from this right, there is also the principle of choice for the consumer. We know of times when a product came in just one form of quality. Today this cannot be done. The consumer has a right to be heard, as well as the right to know the product they buy is not of any danger. That is why the EU established security standards such as the CE mark which shows these products have been manufactured and tests according to EU standards.”
Galea added that consumers have rights towards compensation when the product they buy is not in conformity with what is stipulated in the purchase contract, as well as the right towards education “A consumer who is educated is an informed consumer. As said before, a consumer has to be given all necessary information on a product they are going to buy, in order to make a good decision.”

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