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12° Nicosia,
24 June, 2024
 

Employers' organizations cry foul as water price cap sparks debate

Consumers applaud as Minister gains power to set maximum prices on essential products

Newsroom

In a decision that pleased consumers but left employer organizations dissatisfied, the Council of Ministers approved a bill on Wednesday that grants the minister the authority to set a maximum price for specific products, including water. The proposed legislation targets regulated places such as airports, ports, and potentially hospitals, where consumers lack choices. Commerce Minister George Papanastasiou stated that while the bill extends to other products, the initial focus is on water. Papanastasiou confirmed the proposal's submission to Parliament for a vote.

Konstantinos Karagiorgis, the Director of the Consumer Protection Service of the Ministry of Commerce, highlighted the necessity of applying this policy to essential goods like water. The bill initially concentrates on 500ml and 750ml bottled water and drinking water in glass. However, Karagiorgis clarified that the minister might include other products in subsequent stages, and suggestions for additional items can be proposed during parliamentary debates. He emphasized the minister's authority to set varying prices in different locations based on relevant data.

President of the Pancyprian Consumers Union, Loukas Aristodimou, expressed hope that Parliament would support the bill, ending closed monopoly cases in locations like airports and ports. Aristodimou underscored the importance of extending the measure to include other products, such as children's meals, in these areas.

However, employer organizations OEB and KEBE strongly oppose the bill, particularly the water pricing cap, especially in airports. OEB's Director General, Michalis Antoniou, argued that the intervention in the market could backfire, leading to sustained high prices even aftermarket normalization. He highlighted the operating costs at places like airports, explaining the challenge of maintaining lower prices. KEBE Secretary General, Marios Tsiakkis, opposed the imposition of a cap in a free economy but emphasized the need to strike a balance between ensuring profits for sellers and reasonable prices for consumers, acknowledging the distinct costs associated with different service structures.

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