Annual Report on Consumer Issues
I. Institutional developments
The following are among the legislative activities undertaken during 1999:
The Royal Decree by which the technical and sanitary regulations for the preparation, circulation and trading of detergents and cleaners are regulated, published in the B.O.E. (Official State Bulletin) on 18 May 1999.
With regard to the transposing of EU Directives into Spanish law, it is necessary to differentiate between those which have now been transposed and those which are still in the negotiation stage.
The first set includes:
Among those still being negotiated are:
Directives for which transposition does not come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Consumption but which are very closely related:
Directive 99/4/EC of the European Parliament and the Council, of 22 February 1999, relating to coffee extracts and chicory extracts.
The Millennium Bug
The repercussions of the Millennium Bug on computers and computer systems in various sectors of the economy, and in particular in the consumer sector, was a matter of serious concern for the bodies responsible for consumption in Spain in 1999.
In accordance with the Agreement of the Council of Ministers of 12 June 1998, which mandated the National Consumption Institute (INC) to develop an information programme and carry out a scheme to assess the year-2000 compliancy of products, a large number of conferences and meetings on the Millennium Bug were held throughout the year to inform consumers about aspects related to consumer protection.
An informative pamphlet was prepared in collaboration with other institutions and widely distributed, in addition to a pamphlet drafted by a consumer association and subsidised by the INC which analysed the repercussions of the new technologies. Information on the actions carried out by the INC in connection with Y2K is provided on the organisation's Internet homepage.
With regard to training, seminars were held in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, and a number of round tables took place on the "Impact of the Millennium Bug on Consumers' Computer Systems" in collaboration with the Spanish Association of Information Technology Companies.
Along the same lines, personnel were trained for a consumer inspection by the Autonomous Communities (A.C.) to carry out a campaign enabling the year-2000 compliancy of computer material to be assessed. 18 information days were organised in the Autonomous Communities, jointly organised by the Directorates General of Consumption in the Autonomous Communities, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Public Administrations and the participation of the computer sector.
With a view to promoting year-2000 compliant products, bilateral meetings were held and contacts made with more than 200 companies dedicated to information technology, electronics, automobile manufacturing, etc. These companies were asked to provide information on their products commercialised in Spain, for the end consumer, during the years 1996, 1997 and 1998 and which could be affected by the Millennium Bug. The data supplied by the companies or associations was distributed to the Consumer Bodies in the Autonomous Communities and the Consumers and Users Council and is also available on the Internet, where it was periodically updated and added to.
Other action taken by the INC include the signing, on 2 March last, of the Collaboration Agreement between the Ministry of Public Administrations (M.A.P.) and the National Institute of Consumption for the Processing of Consultations on the Millennium Bug. This agreement not only entailed an exchange of knowledge, methods and experiences among the signatories, it also heralded the creation of a Technical Support Centre established by the Ministry of Public Administrations (M.A.P.), which will accept consultations made by the INC on the Millennium Bug from the Autonomous Communities (A.C.), Municipal Offices for Consumer Information (O.M.I.C.S.), consumer and user associations and consumers in general, with treatment being given the maximum priority.
Finally, work carried out with a view to being awarded the voluntary "Prepared for the Year 2000" emblem, should be highlighted as a means of increasing the guarantee and information provided to the consumer in relation to the acquisition of computer equipment. This led to the Resolution of 7 October 1999, the publication of which is imminent in the Official State Bulletin.
Activities related to the introduction of the euro
In preparation for the introduction of the euro, the Special Commission for the Company Consumption Observatory, created on 16 September 1998 in the framework of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Introduction of the Euro in Spain, has been studying, among other subjects, the creation of Observatories, approving a model of an Observatory for the Transition to the Euro and drawing up a text for a poster and a pamphlet, in the form of a diptych, which will serve to explain the Code of Good Practice to consumers and users in a clear and simple manner.
The organisation of the Observatories and their adaptation to the specificities of each territory (autonomous observatories, local observatories, etc.), in accordance with the guidelines provided by the National Plan for the Transition of the Euro in Spain, was one of the main objectives in 1999.
In this connection, the design and introduction of autonomous and local Observatories is noteworthy. The Observatories will have a mission of follow-up and control throughout the euro transition period, with the aim of avoiding abuse, guaranteeing transparency and resolving conflicts involving consumers.
At the level of the Autonomous Communities, the Euskadi Euro-Observatory was created under Decree 189/1999, of 13 April and, at the local level, some municipalities have Euro Observatories, including that established in the Madrid Town Hall.
Other subjects dealt with during 1999 include the double pricing system, examined in Article 35 of Organic Law 10/1998, of 17 December, which will supplement the Law on the introduction of the euro and the system designed to protect consumer rights throughout the transition period to the euro, in particular the need to provide consumers with clear information on conversion procedures in order to avoid confusion and errors.
In this respect, mention should be made of the "Code on Good Practices for better adaptation to the introduction of the euro", approved by the Inter-ministerial Commission at its meeting of 3 December 1998, for use by company owners and managers. The Code of Good Practices contains a series of commitments to be complied with by company owners and managers participating in the campaign (commitment to provide information, training of personnel, security with regard to conversion, rounding of the last digit, double indication of prices, etc.). Companies compling with the Code will benefit from a "label" or poster that attests their adhesion to the norms relating to the introduction of the euro. This label, which has already been designed, will soon be presented to the media by the Ministry of Commerce.
Market Control Campaigns
A number of campaigns have been carried out in matters of safety, food products and services. These include:
The 1998/99 Campaign on Illuminated Christmas Garlands included performing tests to ensure that they correspond to the relevant safety regulations, and checking the labelling on samples sent to the laboratory as provided for in the 1999 National Campaign for the Inspection of Electric Materials (bases, adapters, lamp holders and cables).
The National Campaign for the Control and Inspection of Baby Foods centred on checking the labelling of these products, verifying the composition and carrying out microbiology and parasitology analyses. Under the EU's Co-ordinated Programme for Official Control of Food Products, the INC carried out a number of campaigns centred on compliance with the Community Regulation on the collection of samples and the implementation of inspections and laboratory analyses of the ochratoxin "A" in coffee and additives to food products considered in existing Directives regulating their use.
The National Campaign for the Inspection of Repair Services for Apparatus for Domestic Use should be emphasised. The degree of compliance with the requirements of the Royal Decree 58/1988, of 29 January and the National Campaign for the Inspection of Product Guarantees relating to domestic equipment, was inspected, and the level of execution and fulfilment of the guarantee requirements in various sectors (cars, electric domestic appliances, clocks and cutlery) was controlled.
The Distance Sales Campaign aimed at the commercial distribution process by which products are offered for sale at a distance. Spanish Law 7/1998, of 13 April, on the Organisation of Retail Trading and the Telephones for Public Use Campaign aimed at ensuring that telephone booths located in public premises were fully liberalised and subject to General Law 26/84 for the Defence of Consumers and Users.
A campaign protocol was prepared and is currently being developed to implement Law 42/1998, of 15 December (B.O.E. of 16 December) on time-share properties and "multiproperty" tax regulations, which transposes Directive 94/47/EC into Spanish law. This campaign is aimed at owners, promoters and other individuals or corporations that participate professionally in the transmission or commercialisation of time-share rights. The two elements being investigated are: i) the documents relating to the constitution of the system; and ii) the contents of the contract.
Finally, the Autonomous Communities, in co-operation with this Institute, are carrying out regional campaigns, notable among which are those carried out during 1999 on industrial and food products. Industrial control campaigns carried out by the Autonomous Communities include: on gasoil, electric switchgear, fast pressure cookers and small electric domestic appliances, toys, teats for babies bottles, dummies, teething rings and nappies for babies, glues, footwear, detergents, cosmetic products, pottery articles and aluminium foil.
Control campaigns on food products targetted industrial bakery products intended for children, sweets, olive oil and butter, ground spices and table sauces, UHT milk, honey and pulse foods. A number of campaigns have been carried out on services.
Latest update 25 January 2001
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