Fabian Demicoli

GRTU Council discusses important issues with Hon Jason Azzopardi


GRTU National Executive Council has
this week met Hon Jason Azzopardi, Minister for fair competition, small
businesses and consumers, to discuss important current issues, primarily the
new Collective Proceedings Act. GRTU was very pleased to welcome Dr
Azzopardi, who was accompanied by Permanent Secretary Paul Zahra and Personal
Assistant to the Minister Lino Mintoff.

GRTU's Director General Vincent
Farrugia told the Minister that even though a single meeting had taken place
during which the Collective Proceedings Act was introduced GRTU had expected
that a number of further discussion meetings would have been held and that such
an important topic would have been discussed at Enterprise Consultative Council
level and maybe even MCESD. This also in line with the way a serious
consultation is carried out and according to the EU guidelines on an effective
and transparent consultation process. At EU level such an initiative is
commonly referred to as Collective Redress, which is a great bone of
contention. Following a Green Paper in 2008, the Commission has so far only consulted
stakeholders. That is another reason as to why GRTU was so surprised the
legislative action was taken so fast in Malta.

The Director General stated that GRTU
is however pleased that during the basic form of consultation carried out GRTU
had aired its views and several aspects were taken on board. GRTU presented Hon
Azzopardi with a paper emphasizing important aspects that still need to be
taken into consideration especially in the implementation of the Act.

In brief GRTU argued that:

Particular attention should be given to product
liability as this is already creating substantial confusion

It should be ensured that companies are safeguarded
from long term negative effects. During a class action companies that have not
yet been proven guilty should be safeguarded from being given a bad name

The mechanisms for alternative dispute resolution
should be strengthened and preferred to a collective action when more
appropriate and possible

The introduction of safeguards such as the loser pays
principle, no punitive damages, qualified experts, etc…

Public funding for collective redress cases is
absolutely unacceptable. Financial support to consumers and information
campaigns about potential violations of a business to attract more claimants
violates the principles of party equality

GRTU emphasised that it is absolutely
not acceptable that the private sector is once again being discriminated with
regards to payments. It is unacceptable that Consumer associations are exempt
form the payment of court registry fees and that in the event the court decides
against the consumer association, the court would reduce the registry fees
against the association by between one tenth and one half according to its
economic standing. This is blatant discrimination and unequal treatment in a
court.

GRTU also took the opportunity of
having with us Hon Azzopardi and Perm Sec Zahra to also raise the issue once
again of bureaucratic burdens emanating form public administration. GRTU once
again called for a transparent and accountable system to be introduced which
includes the publication of the Legal Notice Checklists and the involvement of
the MEU when policies are drafted to ensure that we do not continue adding to
the already unsustainable mountain of burdens.

Another issue the GRTU raised was on
the Rent Reform. GRTU argued once again, and Hon Azzopardi rightly agreed with
most arguments presented by the GRTU, that it is highly unjust and in breach of
basic human rights that legally standing contracts are just made null and
changed by an abusing third party, Government. GRTU made its position clear
once again that GRTU is waiting for Government to turn around and make amends
to the legislative wrongs done to enterprise. GRTU will before the end of the
year otherwise take legal action which will be made stronger with the newly
created Collective Proceedings Act where GRTU will appear for its members hit
by the reform against Government.

GRTU takes this opportunity to thank
Hon Azzopardi for meeting the GRTU National Executive Council and open for
discussions on the topics presented by the GRTU. Hon Azzopardi immediately
showed interest to meet the GRTU once again next month and therefore another
dialogue meeting to discuss important topics for enterprise will be held in
September.

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