10 years of building trust & well-functioning markets
For the past decade, four distinct entities have been working together as one Authority - the MCCAA. Over these years, these independent entities have coalesced into an Authority that provides focused interventions, through a shared vision with the consumer at its centre. May 2021 is the 10th anniversary of the Authority and this special occasion serves as an opportunity to reflect, recognise and renew our work.
Intensified consumer focus
The Office for Consumer Affairs directs its efforts at the promotion of consumer interests. It is the first port of call on matters impacting the individual consumer and dedicates a substantial part of its effort to raising knowledge and awareness of the vast body of law protecting consumers.
Disputes between consumers and traders invariably arise. In such cases this Office provides a conciliation function, striving to reach agreement between the two parties in an amicable manner. Consumer welfare is further enhanced through the fostering of a balanced and just relationship between consumers and traders. The issues arising from COVID-19 where thousands of consumers faced cancellations of booked services, such as travel arrangements and events, shone a spotlight onto the major role that this Office has to play when situations impacting entire industries occur.
Last year alone, the Authority provided guidance and assistance and acted as a bridge to find fair solutions among consumers and traders in over 11,000 cases.
Access to Safe Products
The second layer of protection and support to consumers and traders alike, is provided by the Technical Regulations Division. This is vested with the legal remit to implement and enforce safety legislation associated with products placed on the market. It does this through its regulatory function and also through risk-based surveillance of over 40 categories of products ranging from electrical products to lifts, chemicals, cosmetics and pesticides.
The need for expertise on this vast array of ever evolving products requires that we remain abreast of technological developments by upgrading our skills base and skills mix.
Sometimes market changes can occur extremely rapidly – as we experienced last year. At the peak of the pandemic, regulatory activity related to products such as hand sanitisers and personal protective equipment, hit unprecedented levels. Few people are aware that our teams worked round the clock to ensure that all products entering the market, whether from the EU or from third countries, met the required standards.
Well-functioning markets for consumers
At a macro level, the Office for Competition oversees economic markets for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.
The Office investigates cases where businesses restrict competition by coordinating their behaviour or by abusing their market power. Such actions could lead to market foreclosures, hampering consumer welfare in the process.
The Office also has the onerous task of assessing and deciding upon proposed mergers and acquisitions.
Over the past 10 years the Office assessed and decided upon over 60 concentrations within practically all the major sectors of the Maltese economy, including financial and insurance, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and wholesale and retail.
Standards that matter
Consumers are best served when they acquire products and services of a high quality standard.
Over the years, Maltese standards have been developed by the Standards and Metrology Institute on areas ranging from green roofs to indoor play facilities.
This institute plays another vital role – that of housing the national standards for measurement. It supports a number of industries which rely upon well calibrated measuring instruments as part of their operations. It provides the controls necessary to ensure that measuring instruments used for trade operate within set tolerances, thereby protecting consumers’ rights.
Over 115 organisations have attained quality management or environment related certification according to European and international standards with the support of this institute.
The institute also provides laboratory services primarily in the construction and medical gases areas. Last year this activity came into sharp focus when our health sector rapidly expanded its activities. Over 10,000 tests were conducted on medical gases, more than double the tests carried out in 2019.
More than the sum of its parts
In these 10 years, the Authority has engaged stakeholders to proactively raise the quality of services provided to consumers. Initiatives such as PremjuServizz bi Tbissima and the Trust You scheme were launched.
We invested heavily in our internal systems in order to increase accessibility through our communication initiatives and also through our revamped website and our social media presence.
We have re-engineered our processes and introduced online services including a complaint handling procedure with established KPIs.
We recognise and thank all the employees past and present who, over the years, have helped to shape this Authority. We honour the memory of our dearly departed Inġ. Francis Farrugia, first Chairperson of the MCCAA and Inġ. Michael Cassar, who served as Director for Market Surveillance since the Authority’s inception.
No organisation can be effective without the right people and internal processes, and we will continue investing in our people and their competences. We will also continue to leverage technology and build our knowledge base to provide effective regulation in support of an economy that works for consumers.