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15 June, 2024
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E-kalathi takes on soaring fuel and food prices

Is it the consumer's champion?

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

The ongoing debate within the House Commerce Committee regarding the Retail Price Recording and Monitoring Bill has become both tiresome and contentious. It's veering into the territory of political disputes, trivial expediency, and straying from its core purpose. This holds true for the current discussion and its predecessor.

Let's revisit the essence of this proposal, especially for those who couldn't participate in the parliamentary debate or got lost in the sea of statements and counter-statements.

E-kalathi, akin to e-katanalotis in Greece, revolves around the daily tracking of product prices in supermarkets. These prices are then promptly made available on a digital platform, empowering consumers to identify where they can obtain the best deals. The prior proposal centered on the Household Basket, mirroring Greece's model. It entailed compiling a list of essential goods designated by the relevant ministry, aiming to maintain prices within 50 product categories for consumers' benefit. However, this proposal didn't move forward, leading to the emergence of the e-Kalathi. Therefore, it's perplexing when those who previously opposed the Household Basket now wield it as an argument against implementing the e-basket.

It's disconcerting that since 2022, efforts have been made to introduce a tool to combat prolonged food inflation, either directly (Household Basket) or indirectly (e-kalathi), but progress remains sluggish. If we can't anticipate swift cooperation from supermarkets or suppliers, it raises the question: should we not expect more from our MPs? When an hour of debate is devoted to defining businesses that will disclose product prices in the House of Commons Trade Committee, it's clear that discussing the entire Bill won't be straightforward.

Frequent obstacles and repeated delays persist, leaving the debate at a standstill and inconclusive. One must wonder: who is the target audience of our Members of Parliament? What is the goal of their disagreements, and what are they striving to achieve? At a time when retail food costs are surging, fuel prices are soaring, interest rates are climbing, and imminent increases in electricity bills loom, it seems paradoxical that parliamentary discussions are preoccupied with a digital consumer information tool. The primary proponent of opposition appears to be Synagerimos, even though e-kalathi was initially launched during Nicos Anastasiades' government.

Arguably, the only valid concern is that e-kalathi may negatively impact small supermarkets. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that this category of stores has a dedicated following. Shoppers frequent them not solely for lower checkout costs but also due to proximity, convenience, support for local businesses, a preference for less crowded spaces, or the personalized service they offer. This choice ultimately lies with the individual and isn't solely dictated by price comparisons. At the end of the day, there are more pressing issues demanding the attention of those in power, which burden consumers' wallets and significantly affect their daily lives. Fuel prices, electricity bills, housing expenses, and rising interest rates should take precedence.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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