There are laws and regulations that protect your rights as an EU consumer and, if the goods purchased do not conform with the contract of sale, as a consumer you are entitled to either a repair or replacement, or else to a part or full refund.
The CE mark is an external symbol that indicates that the marked product may be placed on the European
market without national restrictions. With the CE mark the manufacturer confirms that his product conforms to the requirements of the relevant European legislation. The Product Safety Act requires manufacturers to affix the CE mark on certain non-food products, such as low-voltage electrical equipment, toys, personal protective equipment, construction products, machinery, and so on. This is not an exhaustive list of all the items that require the CE Marking.
Value Added Tax, or VAT, in the European Union is a general, broadly based consumption tax assessed on the value added to goods and services. It applies more or less to all goods and services that are bought and sold for use or consumption in the Community.
So, goods sold for export or services which are sold to customers abroad are normally not subject to VAT. And imports are taxed to keep the system fair for EU producers so that they can compete on equal terms on the European market with suppliers situated outside the Union.
So who has to pay VAT and who can have VAT refunded? How is VAT applied and what happens when a good is sold in one country and bought in another?
You’ll find all the answers to your questions, and more, here.
Shopping in Malta
Your rights as a consumer
If you are visiting Malta on holiday or for business and want to do some shopping, you may find useful the information below on how you should be treated as a customer.
Traders in Malta are obliged to follow the laws on how they sell their goods. For example, the law gives consumers a minimum legal guarantee of two years on products purchased. If as a consumer you are sold an item that has something wrong with it, you have every right to return it and have the good fixed or replaced for free.
The seller has no obligation to exchange your goods if the item you bought is not faulty or in conformity with the contract of sale.
The currency in Malta is the Euro (€). Prices must be displayed clearly in shops and, as a customer, you can insist on getting the item for the price indicated on the price tag, which must include VAT.
You have to be given a receipt every time you buy something.
Sales periods in Malta are held whenever retailers wish to do so.
On average, shops in Malta open at 9am and close at 7pm. Some shops open on Sundays and, during the Christmas period, more shops tend to open on Sundays and public holidays, and some even increase their opening hours to as late as 10pm.
For more information about shopping in Malta, click here.
Contracts made away from Business Premises
If you sign a contract away from the business’ premise, you are protected by the Consumer Rights Regulations.
This law covers you for contracts:
· concluded during a visit by the trader in the consumer's home;
· concluded at the consumer's workplace;
· concluded during an excursion organised by the trader away from his business premises;
· where the consumer makes a contractual or non-contractual offer to receive a visit from or take part in an excursion organised by a trader.
You are given a fourteen-day cooling off period during which you can cancel the contract.
However, the law does not apply to contracts relating to:
· the construction, sale or rental of immovable property;
· the supply of foodstuffs, beverages or other goods intended for current consumption in the household and supplied by regular roundsmen;
· the supply of goods or services where the contract is concluded on the basis of a trader's catalogue which the consumer may read in the absence of the trader, where there is intended to be continuity of contact between the parties in relation to the transaction, and where the right of the consumer to cancel the contract is clearly mentioned;
The Consumer Rights Regulations also do not apply to off-premises contracts where the overall price payable by the consumer does not exceed €30.
For more information about contracts negotiated away from business premises, kindly click here.
You are protected by European Law when you buy a package holiday.
It is important to know that the travel operator is bound to, clearly, provide the following information in the brochure:
· The price;
· Any tax or compulsory charge;
· The destination, the itinerary and the means of transport used;
· The type of accommodation;
· The meal plan;
· The passport and visa requirements;
· The health formalities;
· The timetable for payment;
· The deadline for informing the consumer in the event of cancellation.
For a detailed definition of what is considered a package holiday and for more details on your rights, please click here.
In a nutshell, a timeshare contract is one which gives you the right to spend a certain amount of time in a property for a specified or limited period. Timeshare usually involves an arrangement between the proprietors and consumers to acquire the right to use one or more overnight accommodation for more than one period of occupation.
You are protected by law with specific reference to Subsidiary Legislation 409.02 – Protection of Consumers (timeshare, long-term holiday product, resale and exchange contracts) Regulations not only if you buy timeshare property but also if you buy ‘timeshare-like products’. This means, for example, holiday discount clubs as well as resale and exchange are protected by law as long as the period stipulated within the contract is of a duration of more than one year.
Any other contracts entered for less than one year do not fall under the aforementioned legislation.
When you have bought goods or services it is very important that you carefully read the terms and conditions, even those in ‘small print’, before you sign anything.
A contract term is deemed unfair if on its own, or in conjunction with other terms, creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations of the contracting parties to the detriment of consumer.
The Consumer Affairs Act provides a non-exhaustive list of such terms. Some of these include: establishing an unreasonably short period of time for notifying the trader of any defects; and irrevocably bind the consumer to terms with which he had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted with before the conclusion of the contract.
You can find more details about unfair contracts by clicking here.
As consumers, it is in our interest to ask for a commercial guarantee before buying certain types of products. Such guarantee should be given to us in writing and in a language that can be easily understood.
It is important that the commercial guarantee includes the name and the address of the person or company offering the guarantee, the person responsible for that guarantee, the date until when the guarantee is valid, how consumers can make a claim, a clear description of what the guarantee covers, as well as whether the guarantee can be transferred to someone else.
A legal guarantee is one that protects you when you have bought something that has defects or does not conform to the contract of sale .
When the product purchased is not as agreed to during the sale, the trader must provide you with a remedy: repair, replacement, or money refund.
If the trader does not respect the laws, then you may file a complaint with the Office for Consumer Affairs at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority to have your case investigated and mediated, with the aim of reaching an amicable solution.
If a solution is not reached, then the next step is to take the case to the Consumer Claims Tribunal so long as the claim does not exceed €3,500.
You can find all the details about the laws protecting you when you buy goods here.
Sometimes a defect in a product cannot be traced directly to the producer. This applies to, for example, goods that have had parts made by different producers. A defective product can lead to someone getting hurt or injured but, because different people made the product, it is not easy to know who is liable.
If you have bought a defective product you may be entitled to compensation. Find out more here.
Unfair Commercial Practices
If you are misled by an advert by being given the wrong price or misinformation on how the product works, then you may be a victim of an unfair commercial practice. If you have been cheated or lied to then you may be protected by EU law. More examples of unfair commercial practices are when you are given confusing information about trademarks or if you are told that a product can cure illness, when it really cannot, or that you are made to pay for something you did not order.
You can find all the information you need to know about unfair commercial practices here.
EU law protects you if you make a contract without being physically present, for example, by email or over the phone.
You need to be aware that certain contracts are not covered by this law. These are:
- contracts relating to financial services;
- contracts concluded by means of automatic vending machines;
- contracts concluded with operators through the use of public telephones;
- contracts relating to immovable property, except for rental; and
- contracts concluded at an auction.
Unlike shopping on the high street, when you buy goods online, you have the right to return the goods without giving reasons and without being made to pay.
For more details on distance contracts please click here.
Shop owners and traders are bound by law to show the price of the products they are selling so as to make it easy for buyers to compare prices. The prices must be shown clearly and must not be vague or confusing.
In the case of food that is sold by unit weight or volume, both the price of the product and the price per unit (that is per kg, litre, metre or metre cubed) must be shown.
Learn more about how prices should be shown here.
Read the Maltese law on Price Indication Regulations here.
EU law protects consumers in that it makes sure that they are given all the information they need before they sign a contract connected with borrowing money. The law also protects consumers by allowing them to cancel a contract within 14 days of signing, to repay early and to withdraw if what they have bought is cancelled.
More information can be found here.
You can read the full Consumer Credit Regulations here.
When you buy something online, the Distance Selling Regulations oblige retailers to provide information about the contract, such as arrangements for payment, delivery and performance, right of withdrawal.
For more details about Distance Selling Regulations and the law on E-Commerce, click here.
Air Passenger Rights
Despite meticulous planning for trips abroad, be they for work or pleasure, air travel disruptions do occur. Airline delays, cancellations and lost or damaged luggage are all inconveniences that take place from time to time.
Air passengers are protected in the case where things go wrong. If, for instance, your flight is delayed by over two hours or if it is cancelled, you must be given a written notice setting out the rules for assistance. If your flight is delayed by more than two hours you are entitled to a certain amount of care and assistance such as free meals, free phone calls, free hotel accommodation and free transport.
You are also entitled to compensation if your flight is overbooked or cancelled.
If you are denied boarding on a flight that you have purchased from a tour operator as part of a package tour, which combines flight and accommodation, the airline is obliged to compensate the tour operator who has concluded a contract with you.
There are rules and regulations covering lost, damaged or delayed baggage, free assistance in EU airports and assistance on board.
For detailed information on all of the above, please click here.
You can read the full Denied Boarding Regulations here.
The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority is the National Enforcement Body responsible for the implementation of the law’s provisions in Malta. The MCCAA can be contacted on e-mail: email@example.com.
In order to prevent phone bills from skyrocketing when you make a call away from your home country, your phone automatically switches to a local network in the country you are in. You may still opt to select the service provider manually, and switch to a local network of your choice in that particular country.
So, mobile services, such as making and receiving calls, sending or receiving text messages or downloading data, are operated by a foreign network, since the home provider does not operate in that country. For providing this service, the foreign network operator will pass on charges to the home operator, who in turn will pass on the additional charges to you as the consumer.
For more information regarding mobile services whilst travelling in an EU country, including mobile roaming charges and rights, please click here.
Rail Passenger Rights
You are entitled to compensation if your train is cancelled, even in the case of a train accident. The EU law covering rail passenger rights also obliges train operators to inform passengers of their rights and obligations and also to set up complaints boards.
For more information about your rights as a rail passenger, please click here.
THE MALTA COMPETITION AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS AUTHORITY (MCCAA)
The MCCAA is an organisation that helps protect consumers’ rights. It is made up of four entities: The Office for Competition, Office for Consumer Affairs, Standards and Metrology Institute, and the Technical and Regulations Division.
The MCCAA issues several valuable publications related to, for instance, EU Competition Law and its relevance to Malta, as well as a number of leaflets in both English and Maltese on consumer rights, how prices should be shown in shops and your rights as an air passenger.
For more information about the MCCA, click here.
And for a list of their publications, click here.
When you buy a product, if it breaks within the time the guarantee is still valid, you are entitled to a free repair, replacement, or refund.
In the case of repairs, the trader is expected to repair the product as soon as possible, without causing too much inconvenience to the customer.
If the product cannot be repaired, or if the trader does not manage to repair the product within a reasonable amount of time, or if the trader can only repair the product by causing a lot of hassle for the consumer, then the consumer can ask for a replacement. If replacement isn’t possible or may also cause an inconvenience, then the consumer can ask for the price to be reduced or to have the contract cancelled.
Prosafe stands for Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe. This organisation focuses on making sure that products are safe for European consumers. Members of the organisation test, sample and, if necessary, remove dangerous products from the European market. Malta is also a member of this organisation and helps in protecting consumers in the EU.
For more information about Prosafe, click here.
Laws and regulations
Off premises contracts
We have all, at some time or another, had our doorbell rung by a trader selling anything from silver crockery, to beauty products, books, toilet paper, insurance or package holidays.
Sometimes we are interested in the product being sold, and sometimes not. It is important to know that by law, the salesperson has to leave if you ask him or her to, and that it is a crime if they do not. They can be fined if they fail to do so.
In order to prove that he or she is a licenced trader, they must let you know their name, legal status and whether they are working for a company or of their own accord, as well as the details about the company they are representing.
As with any other sale, the trader must offer a contract and respect the rules of the contract concerning refunds, repairs and/or replacements. The salesperson is also bound to inform you about the price of the product or service he or she is selling, and must also provide a detailed description of the goods or services. Consumers must also be informed about their right to cancel the sale.
Full details about off-premises contractts are written out in Consumer Rights Regulations, 2013
Whenever a trader describes the goods he or she is selling, s/he is bound to be honest in what is said. This is called a Trade Description and must describe the following:
· quantity, size or gauge;
· method of manufacture, production, processing or reconditioning;
· fitness for purpose, strength, performance, behaviour or accuracy;
· any physical characteristics not included in the preceding paragraphs;
· testing by any person and the results of this testing;
· approval by any person or conformity with a type approved by any person;
· - the use of any conformity mark, or of any imitation likely to deceive, or of any other indication or statement likely to be construed as, indicating that the goods or services conform to standards issued by any body or authority;
· place or date of manufacture, production, processing or reconditioning;
· person by whom manufactured, produced, processed or reconditioned;
· other history, including previous ownership or use;
· guarantee as to repairs or substitution;
· expiry date or shelf life.
If the trader in any way misleads the consumer by, for example, giving a false description of the product or advertising false information about the product, then he is committing a crime and can be taken to court.
Nothing quite beats the sheer luxury of being able to sit in the warmth of your bed, in your soft pajamas, and shop. Be it clothes, gadgets, groceries, household appliances, make-up or computer games, the internet knows no limits and you can buy virtually anything online and have it delivered straight to your door.
Although it is perfectly safe to shop online, it is important to be aware that not all websites or traders are trustworthy. Below are a few clear and easy-to-follow tips on how to shop safely online.
INFORMATION BEFORE BUYING
It is very easy to be duped when making a payment online. But if you know what to look out for, you can avoid being conned or making mistakes.
Before you make a payment online, always make sure you know the following information:
· the name of the trader;
· the geographic address of where the trader is established;
· the details of the trader , including his electronic mail address, which allow for a rapid contact and for communication in a direct and effective manner;
· where the trader s registered in a trade or similar public register, the trade register in which the trader is entered and the means of identification in that register, such as his registration number;
· where the activity is subject to an authorisation scheme, the particulars of the relevant supervisory authority
Also make sure that you receive a confirmation through email after you place an order.
When buying online you have a cooling off period of fourteen days from date of delivery. The cooling off period can be extended to 12 months if the trader fails to provide you with some basic mandatory information such as his contact details, the price of the product offered for sale, or fails to inform you about your right to cancel the sale.
It is a good idea to inspect the goods as soon as they arrive, and to report any faults or shortcomings to the web trader immediately. The web trader is obliged to fix the problem at no additional cost.
For more information about reliable websites, please click here.
Before you place an order and use your credit card, check that the website is secure.
You can check whether the connection is secure by looking at the seller's website address. This will change from 'http' to 'https' before you pay if the connection is secure. A security icon should also appear at the bottom right of the webpage.
Do not give away more information about yourself than necessary. For instance, when filling an online form, give only the information required and do not provide any additional optional information. Also avoid paying through money transfers as these are difficult to trace if problems arise.
After you place an order it is important to check your credit card statement in order to ensure that the correct amount has been withdrawn. It is also advisable to never give out any user names, passwords or other confidential information such as credit card details via email.
Notify your bank immediately if you notice or suspect any fraudulent behaviour.
For more information about Paying Online, click here.
Unfortunately, the web is inundated with scams. The rule of thumb is that if something looks too good to be
true, then probably isn’t true.
There are many kinds of scams, like lotteries or prize draws. Below are some signs to be wary of:
· being contacted about winning a lottery or prize without having entered into a draw or competition;
· you are asked for money in order to release a prize;
· you are asked for account numbers, passwords or other confidential information through email;
· you are urged to reply to the unsolicited communication straight away, or imposed a deadline by which you must claim your prize;
· you are asked not to talk to anyone about the offer.
For more information about Scams, click here.
Many people across the EU enjoy gaming, be it playing casino games or betting on sportsbook, playing in a
responsible manner and purely for entertainment purposes only. Before you gamble online, it is important to read and understand the terms and conditions you agree to play and abide by upon registration, including any promotional terms which may apply together with any specific rules of games, this information is available to the public at all times on the site.
For example, the site should contain:
· information on the terms and conditions and/or codes of conduct, relating to the gaming operation;
· warnings on the risks of gaming, as well as information on problem gaming;
· links to agencies which may provide advice and/or assistance with responsible gambling;
· links to an accepted and simple self-assessment process to determine risk potential;
· a list of player protection measures available on the site and which should be accessible;
· details to the site's gambling policy;
· an easy method for players to submit complaints.
You should also be allowed to set your own deposit limit and loss limit.
When gambling, you should be able to keep track of reality: a clearly visible clock should be available on screen at all times, and the denomination of each credit should be clearly displayed on the games screen.
For more information about Online Gaming, click here
Returning unwanted Online Goods
Have you ever bought a dress online only to receive it and realise the size is wrong or the colour is not quite what it looked like on screen? Or maybe that briefcase is too heavy for what you had in mind?
Did you know that it is actually easier to return goods bought online than those bought in a shop?
While goods bought in a shop can only be returned, repaired or replaced for a number of specific reasons (if they are broken, or faulty, for example), the system with online purchases is much easier and most online goods and services can be returned or cancelled, with no questions asked.
Do note, however, that there are some items that cannot be returned, such as made-to-measure goods, unsealed audio or video recordings, or computer software, perishables (like food and fresh flowers), and services used by consumers before the end of the cooling off period
It is also important to be aware that, when we buy goods online, we are entitled to the same legal rights as when we are shopping on the high street.
What to do when Things go Wrong
What happens if you order a car online and the spare key you were supposed to receive never turns up?
Or worse still, your seller’s website disappears and you have no way of contacting him or her?
Or maybe the car you hired when abroad is falling apart and the rental service refuses to help?
If you find yourself in trouble as a consumer, the European Consumer Centre of Malta (ECC Malta) is there to help. ECC Malta is there to inform, advise and help consumers in connection with cross border trade with the EU.
You can also seek help online through ECC-Net. This website can help you in the following ways:
• advise you on your consumer rights when shopping and travelling in the EU, Norway or Iceland;
• give you practical consumer tips before your purchase or booking, which will help you save money and avoid problems;
• help you contact the trader when you have a problem resolving your complaint;
• inform you on alternative ways to deal with your complaint if an amicable solution cannot be found.
For more information, click here to access a number of helpful online leaflets and brochures about helping customers in the EU.
If you have been treated unfairly through cheating, fraud, misinformation and so on, the Enforcement
Directorate at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority is there to help and defend your rights as a consumer.
The Enforcement Directorate focuses on the enforcement of consumer protection legislation. It investigates unfair trading practices and unfair contract terms and takes the necessary measures for the suppression and prevention of such practices, which may be detrimental to the interests of consumers. Furthermore, it ensures price transparency and compliance with other information requirements and monitors trading practices relating to the provision of goods and services to consumers. For more information about the Enforcement Directorate, click here.