International and EU Affairs Adviser to the Latvian National Association for Consumer Protection (LPIAA)
COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges the EU has ever faced. Its spread has prompted governments to implement exceptional measures to protect vulnerable consumers. Civil society organisations, including consumer organisations, have been sharing examples of emergency measures introduced in EU countries to protect vulnerable consumers against COVID-19. These examples are collected not only by BEUC (European Consumer Organisation) but also by national umbrella organisations. The Latvian National Association for Consumer Protection (which comprises 10 regional member organisations in cities and towns in Latvia) has been collecting replies from the government, municipalities, regulators and companies on measures introduced to deal with COVID-19. The list below is just a snapshot of these measures:
1) municipalities grant a crisis benefit for residents unable to meet their basic needs due to an emergency. Due to the emergency situation caused by COVID-19, half of these expenses will be reimbursed to the municipality by the state;
2) the Cabinet of Ministers has approved a seven-bill package prepared by the Justice Ministry, including a procedure for debt relief opportunities for consumers with low income and a low level of debt;
3) due to the emergency situation caused by COVID-19, municipalities will postpone or shift real estate tax payments;
4) vulnerable consumers can apply for a heating allowance: an allowance for individual heating, raw materials and other energy-related services, as well as individual heat cost allocations and a flexible calculation and billing methodology. The Latvian National Association for Consumer Protection remains committed to supporting governments and municipalities, as they take steps to protect vulnerable consumers from COVID-19. In this crisis, we need solidarity and coordination between civil society organisations. In addition to the efforts of national civil society organisations, in the post-COVID-19 period we will require a strong and stable EESC, whose members are knowledgeable and ready to work to fully represent the interests of their civil society organisations. Wishing you all health and strength!