IS THE ROLE OF THE CONSUMERS'
ASSOCIATION (MALTA) IN CIVIL SOCIETY ?
The Consumersí Association
which was set up in April 1982 is made up of volunteers
who work in their leisure time with no remuneration to
offer a service to the local consumers. Like any other
voluntary organisation, it acts as a pressure group to
bring to the attention of the authorities to shortcomings
related to all that concerns the interests of consumers
and requests corrective measures.
DOES THE CONSUMERS' ASSOCIATION
OPERATE AND MANAGE ITS DAILY AFFAIRS ?
As a volunteer organisation,
operating in a democratic system, the Association is run
according to a statute which was formulated when it was
first set up. This stipulates that annual general meetings
are held to elect a council. The council acts to set draw
up policies. The day-to-day affairs are managed by the
Executive which is composed from the three officials Ė the
president, the secretary general and the financial
secretary. Recently, the Association has set up the post
of Co-ordinator on a part time basis. The Co-ordinator is
responsible to coordinate the activities of the active
members and also coordinate programmes of activities. The
Association requires financial assistance from the general
public to pay for office expenses since it receives no
financial assistance from the Government. The annual
membership fee is Lm1 and 50 cents for pensioners and
ARE THE MAIN ACTIVITIES OF THE ASSOCIATION ?
We have already pointed out
one main activity i.e. acting as a pressure group.
However, there are other activities. One activity is
representing the local consumers both locally and
internationally. This is an important activity as it puts
forward the consumersí perspective when decisions are
taken. Representation requires deep involvement as one
needs to research the subject matter and formulate
positions which take the consumers interestís position.
Another activity is to educate
the consumers both of their rights and also how to handle
particular situations in order to ensure that their
interests are safeguarded. This activity takes different
aspects as it ranges from direct contact with the
consumers through meetings which are being held for the
purpose throughout all localities to writing in the press
and putting forward the consumersí perspective in TV and
However, an important activity
is the client service where the Association helps
consumers to attain redress. This is done through
negotiations which are held with the trader involved in
order to get redress to the consumer.
STANDING HAS THE ASSOCIATION WITH GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL
The Consumersí Association of
Malta is a registered organisation since it fulfils the
requirements of Act XXVI of 2000. These requirements are
the association has a minimum paid up membership of one
hundred members of majority age who are citizens of Malta
or permanent residents in Malta;
the statute of the association states in substance that
the principal object of the association is to promote
consumer protection and to guide, inform and educate
the statute makes provision for the association to be
managed by persons freely elected by the members of the
association in an election which is held at least once
every calendar year;
association does not have the making of profit as one of
its objects ; and
the association is independent of any other association,
organisation or grouping whose principal object is not the
protection of consumers.
However, the Associationís
standing depends on its activities and the performance of
its active members. Today, we can proudly say that though
we are still a small organization, our activists are able
to match those from much larger organizations.
One thing that helped the
Associationís standing is our overseas affiliations. We
are members of Consumersí International which encompasses
the global consumer movement.
IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ASSOCIATION AND THE
The Department of Consumer
Affairs is the main executive arm of the government in
this area. The Consumer Affairs Act draws out the
function of the Department which is now amalgamated with
the Office of Fair Competition within the Division of
Consumer and Competition. Apart from furthering consumersí
interests its main objective is to implement the
governmentís policy in this area.
On the other hand, the
Consumersí Association is a Non-governmental body and was
set up by consumers for consumers. Whereas the
Departmentís posts are filled by appointment, the
Associations positions are filled through the democratic
process of election from the members. The Association thus
forms part of the Civil Society as it is a citizensí
The two bodies, though
different, have a complementary role.