Atslēgvārdi:

Alive and kicking 10

Thank God there is European Commission - at least, for what it has done and will continue to do for the protection of consumer rights! This is how I would summarize my take on the round table discussion with the Commissioner for consumer protection Meglena Kuneva who visited Riga on 4 December.

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If you’re not sure whether I’m being sarcastic, I am not because:

1. The European Commission is planning to push for equal consumer rights in all the EU which means that all EU countries will have to set the same high standards in this field, enabling consumers in, say, Latvia, Portugal and Sweden enjoy the same rights. This is new because until now consumers in some member states are protected better than in others, due to the so-called minimum harmonization: EU laws encouraging the member states to set higher standards but not forcing member states to do so. The consumer contract directive will push for full harmonization in this field so the same high standards will have to be in place in all EU!

2. The Commission will also continue to carefully watch telecommunications and airlines to make sure that consumers are not being tricked by businesses and that the single market is more consumer-oriented. Here I must add that Bertold Flick, CEO and president of AirBaltic, who was also present in the discussion with the Commissioner, reacted in a defensive way, stressing that airlines are now perceived as the bad guys although they can’t do anything about traffic jams in air space or delayed and lost luggage. Replying to his comments, Commissioner announced that a new EU legislation on airlines should be expected in early 2008, being prepared in close cooperation with airlines and setting clear rules for consumer rights protection in this field.

3. I was also inspired by Commissioner’s views. She said that she would like to have “more market in the market” referring to a need for more competition which will result in better consumer protection. She also said that if consumers complain, that means, “the society is alive and kicking”. This to me seems something that particularly people of Latvia should hear because if consumers don’t complain, businesses have fewer incentives to provide better products and services.

Being “alive and kicking” and also a frequent flyer of AirBaltic, I would suggest European Commission to particularly look into two aspects of AirBaltic services:

a) price policy according to which the same ticket has different prices depending on the day of purchase, e.g. ticket Riga-Brussels-Riga for 27 November cost Ls 170 on Monday, Ls 203 on Tuesday and Ls 193 on Wednesday, so the consumer who purchased the ticket on Tuesday is a loser because he could have waited until Wednesday to save Ls 10, or the following weekend when usually the tickets are cheaper than on workdays.

b) consumer rights protection with regard to changed flight schedule, e.g. what compensation should the consumer be offered when he has made plans to travel on a set date, say 10 December, but AirBaltic changes the flight schedules (several times) and the person in the end has to fly on 11 December, giving the person one day less in the destination and erasing all holiday or business plans made on the assumption that the flight is on 10 December.

For the case that someone in Commissioner’s office reads this blog, there have been other complaints about AirBaltic written here that could be helpful in your work. Good luck and thank you!

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Creative commons c6ae3e51884b139b45a669ce829ac99646bf0ceb328fc95963f1703a58a032d0 CREATIVE COMMONS LICENCE ĻAUJ RAKSTU PĀRPUBLICĒT BEZ MAKSAS, ATSAUCOTIES UZ AUTORU UN PORTĀLU PROVIDUS.LV, TAČU PUBLIKĀCIJU NEDRĪKST LABOT VAI PAPILDINĀT. AICINĀM ATBALSTĪT PROVIDUS.LV AR ZIEDOJUMU!

Komentāri (10) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Komentētājs

DaceA 12.12.2007 12:04
I am not talking about temporary workers who get per diems for having to work abroad temporarily. IT sector is a totally different planet in comparison to construction sites, right? So your example does not really apply to the Laval case. But again, and I'm repeating myself, I do not support the blockade against Laval and am very much looking forward to hearing the court's decision in this case.

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Andris 12.12.2007 11:21
>>> As someone who has worked in a place where locals get paid more than me (foreigner), I can't say that I find this two-class treatement fair.
=====

Many Latvians are hired in Latvia and occasionally do subcontracting work abroad - this concerns also IT. Typically they are paid their Latvian salary + Per Diems (komandējumu dienas naudas - see http://www.fm.gov.lv/page.php?id=3820 ). Since I cannot spend all this "per diem" money anyway, I find foreign assignments fair. Even though Scandinavian workers are probably paid more, I do not care about the pay of other people as long as I get enough for myself.

There are taxation issues, which prevent Latvian IT companies from employing their people in the Nordics for very long periods of time. On the other hand, I have never experienced any hostility towards me in Finland and Norway as a foreign temporary worker.

If Swedes have any issues with people from other EU countries, who occasionally come to do contract work, who are not even considering to settle down in Sweden with their families or use Swedish social services, then the said Swedes must explicitly raise the question of free labor movement at the EU level, and modify their national legislation accordingly. That is the only honest approach. As a Latvian who occasionally works in the Nordics I am expected to respect their country laws. I won't go there, if Swedes as a sovereign nation do not want immigrant/temporary workers. But I cannot be expected to learn about the intricacies of Swedish labor unions or the various demands of their politicians, pressure groups and NGOs.

Even our anti-immigration activists (e.g. from NSS, Nacionālā Spēka Savienība) have not gotten so far as to try to blockade legal, temporary workers from other EU countries.

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DaceA 12.12.2007 10:29
As someone who has worked in a place where locals get paid more than me (foreigner), I can't say that I find this two-class treatement fair. But, as I said before, that does not mean I support the blockade against Laval, or that I don't see reasons why Laval paid their (Latvian) workers less than what they would have to pay to Swedish workers. That is, after all, the agreement between the company and their workers.

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Pēteris 11.12.2007 17:50
I do not find ANYTHING disturbing in fact that some individuals agree to work in Sweden for a payment that is lower than that of Swedish overpaid workers. Laval case was a disgrace and the trade unions just demonstrated their xenophobia.

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Komentētājs

DaceA 11.12.2007 16:28
Aleksis - I share your concerns about overregulation but I'm also an optimist, so when I hear that the Commission wants to protect consumers more and work on new legislation in close cooperation with businesses, I believe that businesses will also have a possibility to voice their concerns. So I am sure that there will be a very lively debate between those willing to protect consumers more and those who want to protect businesses more. And, of course, competition does put many things in place: people don't buy low quality products and services when they can choose and when they have made bad experience with some company. By the way, I was very impressed recently when I could return to a shop in Brussels something I had bought in Austria. I thought that this only worked in the US.
On Laval - but don't you find it difficult to have a strict position on this case, e.g. wouldn't you want the Latvian employees be treated as well as the Swedish workers? I am, of course, not suggesting that the blockade against Laval was not outrageous. It was. But don't you find it disturbing to think that Latvians should be paid and treated worse than local/Swedish workers?

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Aleksis 11.12.2007 10:52
You, Dace, probably can imagine why USSR (or Austro-Hungarian Empire for that matter) eventually broke up. Over-centralization can only work in relatively small and culturally homogeneous countries. If this harmonization of consumer rights would be the result of bargaining between equal parties - e.g. organizations representing employers and businesses in various countries, then it could make sense. Otherwise it is possible that some mistakes are introduced in the process (e.g. the regulations become overprotective for the consumers and too limiting for the service providers) and there is no longer any feedback process, which can help to correct things. Right now all EU countries have different systems in this regard; and we can see what works and what does not. When all apply the same system, then mutual learning between the EU member states no longer takes place.

Laval case is certainly different, but consumer rights harmonization is somewhat parallel to this salary dispute. If EU demands that all businesses across EU treat customers in the same way, it may soon demand "harmonization" regarding treating employees as well.

>>> Companies need to compete - not in the sense that who is bigger and can produce MORE is better.

It is easier for a large company to follow all kinds of regulations - "Maxima" and "RIMI" can typically enforce all kinds of standards better than Mom-and-Pop stores, which could be unaware of these regulations. I am for competition - but ultimately the people who should decide, who must stay in the business are customers not the bureaucrats. The only exceptions are openly fraudulent business practices, trying to sell hazardous products, etc. Which is illegal in most civilized countries anyway.

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Komentētājs

DaceA 10.12.2007 21:13
It's a good question about the golden standard or what will be the basis of the full harmonization in the field of consumer rights protection. So I can only invite you to wait for the proposal from the Commission (expected early next year) to see what these standards will be.

Aleksis - given that the blog is in English, if you don't mind, I'll answer in English, too. I don't understand the link between full harmonization and the Laval case in Sweden? That case is about the freedom of companies established in EU to provide services and import their own workers, and collective agreements in the country where the services are provided - whether they should apply to the "imported" workers or not and whether companies who started the blockade against Laval had the right to do so (pushing Laval into bancrupcy).
Also, looking from consumer's perspective I can only congratulate the aim to implement high standards in all EU. I'm not willing to see businesses punished, I want them to work better - to provide better products and services. And if that means that some companies cease to exist because they can't provide good products and services, then I am sorry but that should be so. Companies need to compete - not in the sense that who is bigger and can produce MORE is better. No, due to the consumer rights protection movement it is more and more the quality of what is produced and provided that matters.

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Aleksis 10.12.2007 20:21
Protams, ir labi, ja patērētāji tiek pasargāti pret acīmredzami blēdīgu biznesa praksi (maldinoši norādītām cenām). Savukārt tas, ka aviosabiedrību biļešu cenas svārstās - tas ir normāli un dabiski. Nedaudz sliktāk ir tad, ja aviosabiedrības neprasmīgi nodarbojas ar "overbooking" - t.i. pasažieri ar derīgām biļetēm netiek pie lidošanas.

Priekš parastiem biznesiem "minimum harmonization" princips ir daudz labāks. Princips "visiem vienādi augsts standarts" man atgādina stulbo incidentu ar Laval celtniekiem Zviedrijā. Pieprasīt no visiem vienādi augstu standartu - tas bieži vien ir paņēmiens kā lielākajam un stiprākajam nožņaugt vājāko.

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Krsish 10.12.2007 17:24
ha .. another mission impossible. Personally, I liked to see how she intends to push this trough, especially, in her own country – was it Bulgaria! And what will be the golden standard – English, Swedish, Dutch or ?. And what about cheep imports?

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