While consumer legislation does not regulate the prices at which products or services are to be offered for sale, sellers are, however, obliged to clearly inform consumers about the applicable prices. How the prices should be indicated depends on whether the item in question is a product or service.
Goods offered for sale in retail stores or displayed in shop windows must have their prices indicated clearly and accurately. The price of a product must be indicated either on the product itself or on the shelf where it is displayed. When more than one item of the same kind, type, size or brand of the same goods are displayed for sale, it is sufficient to show the price on just one of these items, or near them.
Furthermore, shops must display the final price of goods for sale, which should be inclusive of any taxes or other charges. This obligation also applies during sales, when sellers should not only indicate the percentage discount, but also the final reduced price.
Two prices must be indicated on goods that are sold by unit weight or volume. One should be the actual price, being the price for a given quantity of the goods, such as the price of 200 grams of cheese. The other price is the unit price. This is the price for one kilogram, one litre, one metre or one square metre of the goods.
These two prices are needed because when consumers buy goods by weight or volume, it is only by comparing unit prices of different products that they can really compare similar products.
The obligation to indicate two prices also applies to pre-packed goods in pre-established or variable quantities. The unit price may be indicated in a smaller font than the actual selling price, but it must still be clearly visible.
The Price Indication Regulations do not apply for goods supplied for the purpose of reselling, goods sold at an auction, goods provided in the course of a service, and to works of art or antiques.
Regarding services, the Unfair Commercial Practices Regulations oblige traders to provide consumers with information on the applicable prices.
When standard services are offered for sale, the trader should display a list of services with prices. Where the price cannot be calculated in advance, sellers should indicate how the price is calculated.
Once an agreement is reached on the service required by consumers, traders must provide a quotation of the total cost of the service before the sales contract is concluded. It is the consumers’ responsibility to ensure they are given full information of the costs involved before committing to a purchase.
Businesses such as restaurants, pubs, kiosks and cafeterias are obliged to clearly display a list of up-to-date prices that is visible from the street or at the entrance of the premises. This is to enable consumers to compare the prices of different establishments before entering.
Traders are bound to ensure full compliance with these regulations. They are also responsible for any infringements made by their employees. Non-adherence is considered an offence, and if found guilty, traders may be fined. In case of a second or subsequent convictions, traders can also have their trade licence suspended.
Consumers may report lack of price indication to the Office for Consumer Affairs by calling on freephone 8007 4400 or use the ‘flag a concern’ form on the MCCAA website https://mccaa. org.mt/home/infringement.
Odette Vella, Director, Information and Research Directorate
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