Bulgaria’s competition watchdog: ‘Alarming trend’ in unfair commercial practices by retailers

Inspections carried out at retailers by the Competition Protection Commission (CPC) have revealed an “alarming trend” in unfair commercial practices, CPC head Stoil Alipiev told Bulgarian National Radio on February 26.

The CPC said on February 16 that it would begin checks following complaints by the public and reports in the media about soaring prices of basic food products.

Alipiev said that out of 350 inspections, 370 violations had been found.

“What is more worrying is that about 150 are unfair commercial practices by large traders,” he said.

“Unfair commercial practices in such a large volume is a very worrying trend. This means that this problem has been ignored or even tolerated for a long time,” Alipiev said.

The largest possible fine provided by law is 50 000 leva. Such a fine would not be a crucial matter for large retailers and the next Parliament should consider increasing the fine, he said.

He said that large retailers were being checked because they could distort the market and affect everyone else.

A commodity is worth as much as the consumer agrees pay for it, but the question was whether the consumer was giving consent because of an informed choice or as a result of being misled.

Alipiev gave examples where retailers lured people with misleading messages and promotions.

A common practice is for the retailer to attract customers with promotional merchandise that is out of stock. But once at the shop, they buy goods, irrespective of the price.

“We encounter practices that mislead the user in various ways, for example the ‘Pay Two, Get Three’ promotion. There are cases in which the goods are arranged in such a way that when you take the first or the second one, it turns out at the checkout that this product is not on sale,” Alipiev said.

He said that it was too early to expect the checks to produce results. That may be expected after three to six months, he said.

(Photo: Jupiterimages/ freeimages.com)

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