From July this year, shops that offer products at a reduced price will have to show the lowest price charged during the previous month. This reference price will prevent consumers from being tricked into purchasing products at what they believe to be a discount.
By assuring that sales prices must legally be compared with the lowest price during the 30 days previous, consumers should be better protected against fraudulent price indications, says State Secretary for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker.
“The consumer hoax must be over,” she stated, pointing to the fact that the Economic Inspectorate frequently uncovers fraudulent price indications. This is when shops increase prices just before the start of the sales period, essentially tricking consumers into thinking they have found a bargain. Aside from costing consumers, this is against the law.
In 2021, the Economic Inspectorate carried out 6,776 inspections of price markings and almost 2,000 infringements of economic law. The inspections resulted in 1,758 warnings and 242 official reports. De Bleeker hopes that the new measure will prevent future infringements of this kind.
“Traders who abuse this principle are guilty of swindling and these are practices that we will continue to crack down on,” De Bleeker wrote in a press release.
Change in legal framework
At the end of May, the European Omnibus Directive will come into force, which aims to modernise EU consumer protection rights and better enforce them. It also introduces this reference price which “will ensure that consumers receive information about price reductions in a more transparent and correct way,” De Bleeker stated. “Sellers who fail to comply or continue to commit fraud will be visited by the Economic Inspectorate.”
Consumers can also take matters into their own hands and report fraudulent prices online. This will lead to an investigation by the Economic Inspectorate.
The agency will also continue to focus on thorough and proactive inspections to further ensure that consumers are protected from such fraudulent price indications.