Unfair and blacklisted commercial practices – Odette Vella
When promoting and selling products and services, merchants are legally required to provide consumers with clear and unambiguous information so that they can make an informed purchasing decision. It is indeed illegal and therefore prohibited for sellers to engage in commercial practices likely to alter the ability of consumers to make an informed choice.
Two types of business practices are considered unfair: deceptive practices and aggressive practices.
Marketing practices can be misleading, either through misinformation or omissions, because consumers need information to make informed choices. Specifically, consumer law prohibits commercial practices that present false or inaccurate information about the main characteristics of a product, such as the nature of the product, its availability, its price, its advantages or its risks.
Consumer law also mentions specific examples of commercial practices which, in all cases and under all circumstances, are considered to be downright misleading and therefore prohibited. Some of these blacklisted practices include:
Bait advertising, which includes promotional practices where a merchant makes a very attractive offer in order to attract consumers but does not have enough stock to meet the demand. The intention of the seller is to promote a product with the intention of selling another more expensive product;
Fake free offers, which include situations where consumers are told that they will receive a free gift or product, but in order to get the freebie, they need to make some kind of payment;
Unsubstantiated claims where sellers make false claims regarding consumer benefits when using a specific product. These include claims about a product’s ability to cure disease.
Consumer law prohibits commercial practices that present false or inaccurate information about a product-Odette Velle
In cross-border transactions, sellers are also prohibited from giving the impression that after-sales service is available in another EU member state when this is not the case. It is also considered an unfair commercial practice to give the false impression that the trader is not acting within the framework of his commercial activity but rather presents himself as a consumer.
Aggressive commercial practices are also considered unfair and therefore prohibited. A commercial practice is qualified as aggressive when a professional uses harassment, coercion or undue influence to influence the consumer’s decision to buy. The Unfair Marketing Practices Regulations list a number of situations that are considered aggressive selling, including:
Make consumers believe that they cannot leave the merchant’s establishment until the sales contract is concluded; Conducting business at a consumer’s home and refusing to leave despite being asked to do so; Explicitly informing consumers that if they do not purchase the product or service, the merchant’s job or livelihood will be at risk; and Advertisements aimed directly at children buying products or persuading adults to buy for them.
Deceptive or aggressive marketing practices are not permitted in business-to-consumer transactions, regardless of the product or service, or the circumstances of the transaction, whether face-to-face, telephone, Internet, and mail.
Moreover, consumer protection legislation only protects the economic interests of consumers, so commercial practices that affect their health, safety, taste or decency fall outside the scope of the legislation.
If consumers are victims of an unfair trade practice, they can report sellers and seek redress for any financial loss suffered through the MCCAA Office of Consumer Affairs. Consumers can contact the authority on the toll-free number 8007 4400 or via the ‘report a problem form’ on the MCCAA website below.
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