Costa del Sol News - 3rd September 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Summer markdowns saw higher sales but flat profits

July's IVA increase is cited by business association Fecoma as being the principal cause

By Oliver McIntyre

AS THE summer sales season came to a close this week, Costa retailers reported mixed results, with higher sales figures but no corresponding increase in profits.

The strong sales but flat profits were the result of very steep markdowns from the outset of the sales season and the increase in IVA tax (VAT equivalent) at the beginning of July, which the traders say they did not pass on to customers.

While final figures are not yet available, Fecoma, the business federation in Málaga province, says preliminary data suggests sales were up by around four to five per cent compared to the same period last year. However, while there were more individual sales, the average amount of each receipt was lower.

Fecoma cites the IVA increase as the principal cause, but the Al Andalus consumers' association points to the heavy discounts - noting that the sales season was excellent for shoppers. "The sales were very good, similar to last year, with discounts of 50 to 70 per cent right off the bat," said Al Andalus's vice president, María Huelin.

Fecoma is already strategising for the next sales season, continuing with its long-standing push for the Junta de Andalucía to reduce the length of the official sales period, at least during the winter sales. Currently, the winter sales run for two months, from January to February, which Fecoma says is too long because they practically outlast the cold weather in the province, meaning people no longer want to buy winter clothes.

The two-month summer sales period, from July to August, is not so problematic, says Fecoma, as the Málaga climate keeps shoppers interested in summer clothing well beyond the sales.

Inland areas gear up for road works galore

The plan outlines repairs and upgrades on 103 roads throughout the province

By Oliver McIntyre

INLAND areas of Málaga province are about to be hit with dozens of roadwork projects after the provincial government last week put out to bid more than 25 million euros' worth of contracts for repair work to damages caused by last winter's heavy storms.

The Storm Damage Restitution Plan was presented last week by the president of the Diputación de Málaga, Salvador Pendón, along with other officials and representatives of the construction industry and trade unions. It represents the biggest expenditure ever made by the Diputación on road works, said officials.

The plan outlines repairs and upgrades on 103 roads throughout the province, though focused chiefly in the Serranía de Ronda, the Axarquía and the Antequera area.

The Ronda area will benefit from the greatest investment, with a budget of more than 14 million euros for work on 29 roads. The biggest projects will be at Ronda La Vieja (including Acinipo), Cortijo de Los Villalones, Venta de la Leche, Montecortillo and Montecorto.

The Antequera area is budgeted for 6.4 million euros of work on 29 roads while the Axarquía will see 35 roads upgraded at a cost of 4.3 million euros. The Guadalhorce valley is budgeted for just 402,000 euros but officials said that, for administrative reasons, much of the work to be carried out in this zone is actually included in the budget for the Antequera zone.

Shelter sells its property to ensure animals' future

The lifesaving deal is thanks to a long-time supporter who has purchased the land

By Oliver McIntyre

UNDER the weight of hefty outstanding debts, the PAD animal shelter in Mijas is selling the property where its facilities are located, under a deal that will allow the shelter to continue operating at the site practically free of charge.

The lifesaving deal for PAD comes thanks to an unnamed long-time supporter who has agreed to purchase the property at fair market value with an agreement that PAD can rent it for the next 10 years for just one euro a month.

PAD's financial problems stem from a steep drop in revenues over the last year or so as the economic crisis has seen a reduction in donations and membership renewals, explained PAD's vice president, Lisa Emeny.

To save on costs the shelter has had to reduce the number of animals it takes in; it now houses around 40 dogs and 150 cats, roughly half the number it had during peak operations, she told Costa del Sol News.

Despite cutbacks, the shelter has operating costs of around 10,000 euros a month, and faces "certain accrued liabilities not disclosed to the current committee until shortly prior to the AGM, earlier this year," according to a statement on its website.

Paco de Lucía headlines Luna Mora bill

By Oliver McIntyre

THE VILLAGE of Guaro is gearing up for this year's edition of the town's most famous event, the Luna Mora festival, when local streets glimmer in the warm glow of some 20,000 candles.

The annual celebration of the area's Moorish history this year features flamenco guitar legend Paco de Lucía as one of several top-flight musical acts, who will inaugurate the town's new 1,600-seat outdoor auditorium with views of the Sierra de las Nieves.

The Luna Mora festival officially kicks off on September 10 with an inaugural address by poet Manuel Alcántara in Plaza de la Constitución at 8.30pm.

The event runs for four days over two weekends (September 10 to 11 and 17 to 18), with the streets converted into a huge medieval market beginning at 5pm each afternoon, with 120 stalls of artisan products, workshops, performances and other activities.

The main concerts are at 11pm each night in the town's new Luna Mora auditorium.

The first night, September 10, features popular Málaga singers Diana Navarro and Pablo Alborán.

The next night, Saturday, guitar master Paco de Lucía will take the stage.


Call for repeal of ICP requirement; Endesa fines customers who've already requested the device

By Oliver McIntyre

CONSUMER watchdog Facua has called on the government to repeal the Ministry of Industry order that led to electric companies slapping customers with a penalty surcharge of up to 31 euros per month if they fail to install a power control trip switch (ICP).

Facua says the requirement is "absurd" given that a separate order from the ministry requires electric companies to replace existing meters with modernised digital ones that are equipped with their own power-use limiters, meaning the trip switches will be unnecessary.  The December 2007 order requires the electric companies to replace 30 per cent of all meters for service of up to 15kW by the end of 2010, and to continue progressively until 100 per cent of them are replaced by 2018. 

The ICP (Interruptor de Control de Potencia) is separate from a standard circuit breaker and cuts the supply if the consumer attempts to draw more than the contracted level of power. It is installed in the existing fuse box or, if there is not sufficient space, in its own separate box.  Installing it comes at the consumer's expense - anywhere from around 20 euros to hundreds, depending on if the ICP is purchased or is rented from the electricity company, if a separate box must be installed, and if other upgrades to the system are necessary.  In all cases there is a roughly 10-euro charge for the electricity company to verify and seal the unit.

Improper fines

Meanwhile, at least one consumer office on the Costa del Sol has reported cases of an electricity company illegitimately fining customers who had already responded properly to the notification letters. Torremolinos's consumer information office (OMIC) says Endesa has applied the surcharge to bills of some customers who responded to the notification by requesting that the company install the device.  Once that is done, no fine should be charged no matter how long the company takes to come out and perform the installation, says the OMIC, which urges all consumers to check their bills closely to make sure they are not being penalised unfairly.

Bank guarantee petition

Britons want justice for homeowners unable to claim back guarantees on deposits paid for off plan properties

By Alex Watkins

BRIT Keith Rule has launched a petition demanding justice for homebuyers who were not provided with or have been unable to claim back guarantees on deposits paid for off plan properties.

It is to be sent to the Spanish king and government, the European commission, UK prime minister David Cameron, the law society and the UK estate agents' association.

He told this newspaper he is one of 63 purchasers on the Finca Parcs development in Albacete who were not provided with the legally required bank guarantees for their properties.

The scheme was marketed at the British and Irish markets and many victims live on the Costas.

As the funding ran out, the homes were never built and the buyers are now taking legal action against the developer, Cleyton GES SL, and also the CAM bank.

"Until recently people have been told even if they win a case against the developer there is usually no money," he explained.

"After 18 months of research with María de Castro of Costa Luz lawyers we believe the bank is equally liable."

According to law, 'the developer must ensure the return of the payments made plus legal interest', 'if the construction does not commence or complete for any reason by the agreed deadline'.

It also stipulates 'sums advanced by purchasers must be deposited in a special account, with separation from any other funds belonging to the promoter, which may only contain funds deposited for the construction of dwellings'.

Traffic death drop puts brakes on organ transplants

Fewer fatalities means fewer donated organs and wait lists grow longer

By Oliver McIntyre

SPAIN'S  radical reduction of traffic fatalities is great news - unless you need an organ transplant.  Due in large part to decreased road deaths, the number of organ donations in Andalucía dropped by 10 per cent in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period last year, while the number of transplants performed was down by 18 per cent, according to figures presented last week by Manuel Alonso, the transplant coordinator for Andalucía. 

The drop is not due to a reduced willingness to donate organs; the denial rate by family members of potential organ donors has remained steady, at 17 per cent.

Fatal traffic accidents used to be one of the primary sources of organ donors, but have now become a minority source; in 1993 road fatalities made up 38 per cent of donors, while so far this year they represent just seven per cent. 

Older donors

Other factors in the drop in donations include a reduction in mortality from cerebral haemorrhaging, and an increase in the average age of organ donors, which has risen from 38 in 1993 to 58 now. The older the donor is, the more likely it is that some of his or her organs will be unsuitable for transplantation, explained, Sr Alonso.

The drop in donations means that the waiting list for transplants is growing.  Currently there are 874 patients in Andalucía awaiting a transplant, 19 more than in 2009.

In the first half of this year 291 organ transplants were carried out in Andalucía including 274 using organs from deceased donors and 17 using a kidney from a living donor.  

Britons are top users of medical interpreter service

Health centres offer interpretation in 62 languages but 90 per cent of demand is for English

By Oliver McIntyre

IN THE first seven months of this year nearly 2,400 medical consultations in Málaga province have been conducted using the telephone interpreter service provided for non-Spanish speakers by the Andalucía health service's Salud Responde programme. 

Britons and other English speakers make up the vast majority of users; while the service is offered in 62 languages, 89 per cent of calls are for English interpretation. The next most frequently requested language is German, at a hugely distant 2.6 per cent, followed by Mandarin Chinese (2.1 per cent) and French (1.6 per cent).

The service, which involves a three-way phone conversation between the doctor, the patient and an interpreter, was launched by the health service in February 2009.  When a non-Spanish-speaking patient comes in, the doctor simply calls Salud Responde from a land line or mobile phone to request the service, and Salud Responde sets up the three-way call.

The system is also used by Salud Responde itself to handle calls from non-Spanish speakers seeking information or wanting to make a medical appointment.