Consumer Protection

Government Warns Companies Will Pay the Price for Unauthorised Increases
Europe, Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy (MoE) will investigate and take action against retailers suspected of engaging in price manipulation or price increases without prior approval. MoE consumer protection department director-general Hashim Saeed Al Nuami reportedly stated that “[s]uppliers, traders or services providers are not allowed to increase their prices whenever they want unless they [can] justify the reason [behind the] increase to get an approval from the [MoE]“.  Dr Al Nuami also reportedly warned that companies found to have manipulated or increased prices without approval faced fines of between Dh5,000 to Dh100,000. According to Gulf News, special teams have been employed to monitor prices throughout the country, while a barcode system that is linked to the Department of Customs is being introduced to some major retailers in order to track prices and the movement of goods.
Gulf News: Government to crack down on arbitrary price increases (15 February 2012)
(Source: Gulf News)

Supermarket Puts Freeze on Old Labels
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Guardian reports that supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has announced changes to the advice that appears on its food packaging, which it hopes will reduce the amount of food thrown out by consumers. Sainsbury’s reportedly believes up to 800,000 tonnes of food, worth an estimated £2 billion, is thrown away by consumers because current packaging suggests that they should “freeze on day of purchase”. Sainsbury’s fresh and frozen product head of technology Beth Hart reportedly stated that “[the] advice needs to be changed as there is no food safety reason why it cannot be frozen at any point prior to the use-by date. As a large UK retailer, we have a responsibility to minimise food waste where possible and this new labelling will certainly help us do that”.
The Guardian: Sainsbury’s changes food freezing advice in bid to cut food waste (10 February 2012)
(Source: The Guardian)

French Court Finds Pesticide Manufacturer Responsible for Poisoning

A Lyon court has declared that US agricultural company Monsanto was responsible for the poisoning of farmer Paul Francois, who had claimed that the onset of nausea, stuttering, dizziness, headaches and muscular pain was brought on by inhaling a Monsanto manufactured herbicide in 2004. Mr Francois’s lawyer, Francois Laffourge, reportedly argued that Monsanto failed to state what chemicals its “Lasso” herbicide contained on the label, and continued to offer it for sale in France, despite the product having been banned in Canada, Britain and Belgium.

Generations Futures spokesperson Francois Veillerette reportedly stated that “[t]he recognition of Monsanto’s responsibility in this matter is essential: plant care companies know that from now on they can no longer shirk their responsibilities”. According to The Guardian, Monsanto lawyer Jean-Phillipe Delsart stated that “Monsanto always considered that there were not sufficient elements to establish a causal relationship between Paul Francois’s symptoms and a potential poisoning”, and that the company would consider appealing the verdict.
AFP: French court orders Monsanto to compensate poisoned farmer (14 February 2012)
The Guardian: Monsanto found guilty of chemical poisoning in France (14 February 2012)
(Source: AFP; The Guardian)

FTC Annual Activities Report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made available its Annual Report (27 January 2012) to the Federal Reserve Board on its enforcement related activities in relation to the consumer protection legislation that it enforces. The report  also discusses the FTC’s planned future activities and the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
FTC’s media release (10 February 2012)
(Source: FTC)

Bank of America Subsidiary Settles FTC Charges

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Bank of America subsidiary BAC Home Loans Servicing (BAC) has agreed to settle charges, pursuant to a consent order (undated), that it illegally assessed more than US$36 million worth of fees against struggling homeowners. According to the FTC, BAC has already reversed or refunded US$28 million worth of improper fees for title and other default-related services charged to homeowners. BAC agreed to the FTC settlement in conjunction with a US$25 billion Global Civil Settlement that Bank of America and the four other largest US banks reached with the Department of Justice and state attorneys general to settle charges of abusive foreclosure practices.
FTC’s media release (9 February 2012)
(Source: FTC)