THOUSANDS of disgruntled property buyers without title deeds plan to flood the Commerce Ministry’s Consumer Protection Service (CPS) with complaints under the Unfair Commercial Practices law.

According to Denis O’Hare from the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG), the buyers plan to demand en masse that their title deeds be immediately issued or they receive their money back with interest.

The claims will be filed in accordance with the EU Unfair Commercial Practices law, which is now effective in Cyprus. However knowledge of this law does not appear to be widespread. Two weeks ago the head of the Cyprus Consumers Association, Petros Markou, told the Cyprus Mail that he had never even heard of it.

The new joint action by property buyers is being organised by CPAG as just one part of a co-ordinated exercise involving UK MEPS at the EU, in order to force the government to act on the issue of withheld title deeds, a practice which is damaging to the island’s property market and image.

‘The government of Cyprus in response to previous lobbying of the EU by CPAG’s supporters was forcibly pushed into action declaring to all and sundry that legislation would be passed to fix the problem for buyers. However, after originally promising this legislation by the end of 2008, only recently did the Minister of the Interior boast that he had finally cut the Gordian Knot, his oft-used phrase for this mess, by getting certain bills passed by parliament,” said CPAG’s O’Hare. “Unfortunately it is now clear that passed legislation, which was mostly designed to try and clear the festering illegality in the industry caused by the abject failure of this and previous governments to enforce the nation’s planning laws, does not address the main problem of undisclosed developer mortgages encumbering people’s homes.”

He said they would now turn to the Consumer Protection Service, the agency which enforces the EU Directive Unfair Commercial Practices law, among others, and is also tasked with taking court action on behalf of complainants if required. It also has powers to hand out heavy fines to transgressors and jail sentences can be used against persons who hinder their investigations.

CPAG has co-ordinated via UK MEP, Daniel Hannan, that most if not all of the 72 UK MEPs co-sign a letter to Vivian Reding, EC Commissioner for Justice, requesting that the failure to transfer title deeds immediately after purchase be deemed an unfair commercial practice in all circumstances, regardless of when the sales contract was signed.

O’Hare said that many CPAG supporters had also written to Reding with a similar request and confirmed that buyers of other nationalities are now writing to their country’s MEPs to seek support to outlaw this title deed practice.

Asked if he really thought that the Consumer Protection Service would be able to obtain buyers’ deeds or get their money returned O’Hare said: “In a word no! But this in itself will establish that Cyprus cannot or will not enforce EU law and this means that the EU Commission will be forced to take action against Cyprus, according to our MEPs.”

Furthermore, having exhausted the local legal remedy individual buyers can use the European Court of Human Rights, which is also free, in order to press for their property rights. Under an EU Directive the state is responsible for any losses caused by non-enforcement of the law.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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