The consumer watchdog has warned retailers and local businesses to be clear about Black Friday discounts to ensure that consumers are not misled by prices.
“When a trader offers a discount, the price of that product has to be compared to the price that was being sold 30 days before,” Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) director Grace Stivala said on Monday.
“This means that during those 30 days, the trader cannot put up the price of the product to make the discount look better.”
Stivala was speaking to Times of Malta following the launch of the Malta Chamber of SMEs' new website promoting Black Friday offers by local businesses.
Having originated as a US custom held on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is now considered one of the biggest shopping event of the year worldwide.
Although the day this year falls on November 24, most businesses stretch their deals for a week or even the whole of November.
Stivala explained that sellers cannot only mark the percentage being discounted. The original price also had to be displayed.
Through the MCCAA’s investigations unit, the authority can monitor prices on business websites to ensure price transparency and check if discounts are genuine.
“If traders are in breach, there are penalties established in our legislation and we can proceed with criminal action,” she said.
According to the Price Indication Regulations, a person who breaks the regulations can be fined between €150 and €1500 for first offenders, and €200 and €2,000 for a second or subsequent conviction.
Malta Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo said customers who use the website will have the opportunity to win vouchers from businesses from various sectors.
Customers will have the opportunity to search for offers either by category and sector or by discount percentage, this going up to 70%.
More than 170 local businesses representing more than 500 outlets have put their offers on the website.
Consumer Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said Black Friday is an important event to promote local products and enterprises but consumer rights must also be protected.
Correction 21 November: The Price Indication Regulations link originally referred to in the article was not the latest updated one. The fines were also updated.