Consumer Protection Rights in Malta and the EU
Without any doubt, consumer protection is a requisite in ensuring that a consumer is given value for money when purchasing or hiring a product or service within the European Union. As a consumer, there are certain laws and regulations in place that protect your rights if the goods purchased are not in line with the contract of sale.
Consumer protection in Malta reached new heights with the enactment of the Consumer Affairs Act (Chapter 378 of the Laws of Malta), which in turn established the Consumer Claims Tribunal. The Tribunal is the body specifically designed to resolve consumer disputes in the event that an amicable settlement between the trader and complainant is not reached. In this case, a dissatisfied consumer, armed with the varying levels of protection that the national consumer laws, including the relevant EC directives, have to offer, may commence proceedings before the Tribunal, as opposed to court proceedings, since the latter are more formal, lengthier and more costly.
Cases before the Tribunal generally concern unfair terms and conditions, defective products, commercial guarantees, consumer grievances, misleading advertisements, false description of goods, below standard service, and refusal to abide by terms and conditions amongst others. The Tribunal will hear and determine claims issued by consumers up to a maximum claims value of €3,500.
In certain cases, if successful, the aggrieved consumer may also be awarded moral damages up to the value of €500. Both the trader and the consumer have the right to appeal from the decision taken by the Tribunal to the Court of appeal within 20 days from the date of final decision.
Advice on Consumer Rights in the EU
Established in 2011, The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) came into force of the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority Act (Cap 510 of the Laws of Malta). The Authority promotes and encourages competition while safeguarding consumer interests.
Since Malta forms part of the European Union, consumer rights are also safeguarded at an EU Level. As a matter of fact, the European Consumer Centre of Malta (EEC Malta) forms part of the international European Consumers Centres Network (ECC-Net) framework, which operates through various offices located in all EU Member States. The main goal of the ECC-Net is to offer support and solutions to consumers with regards to their activity within European markets. Its main focus revolves around empowering consumers to feel as confident while shopping in another EU country as they would in their own. Moreover, it assists consumers in reaching amicable solutions with traders first. When this is not possible, the ECC-Net will then encourage both parties to discuss and agree upon an out of court settlement.
Valletta Legal has been engaged in a number of consumer law related issues and has experience in appearing before local Tribunals. We have been successful in representing both consumers whose rights have been prejudiced, as well as companies and traders who have been served with an unfounded complaint or submitted a counter-claim. In this respect, we are able to offer our clients with in-depth and efficient advice and also with assistance during all stages of consumer disputes.
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