Commentary: Czech Trade Inspection Authority report downplays discrimination against Romani consumers
separate cases. The ČOI has reported the findings in a press releae today summarizing the results of the 1 254 audits it conducted in 2014.
In six of the proven cases, consumers were rejected as possible buyers or renters of apartments because they are Romani. In another case consumers were not allowed to enter a place of business because they are Romani.
The final case involved consumers being excluded from participation in travel because they are Romani. Inspectors proved that discrimination against consumers had taken place on the basis of either age, nationality or race in a total of 44 cases, twice as many as in previous years.
Nevertheless, the ČOI report concludes that consumer discrimination in the Czech Republic is just a fringe phenomenon: "The results of the audits focused on the discriminatory behavior of entrepreneurs toward consumers confirms that such behavior does persist, albeit on a small scale. Most of the proven cases did not involve a conscious effort on the part of an entrepreneur to discriminate against a specific consumer. Rather, the entrepreneurs underestimated the possible legal consequences of some of their business practices. Even such unintentional behavior cannot be tolerated, however. In addition to the proven cases of discrimination against Romani consumers, some entrepreneurs' practices restricting the consumer rights of foreign nationals are also a warning sign. These audits also confirmed that consumer discrimination, including discrimination against persons with disabilities, occurs during the sale of goods and the provision of services only occasionally, and from the number of complaints filed, it can be concluded that consumers do not encounter discriminatory behavior very often in everyday life."
This raises the question, of course, of to what degree the proven cases represent the reality in which we live in the Czech Republic. A significant proportion of Romani people here do not, for example, stand a chance of renting a "normal" apartment.
Even though discrimination on the basis of race is just one factor in this phenomenon, one distinction is important: The number of proven cases of discrimination against prospective Romani tenants is one thing, but the overall impact of the discrimination that permeates Czech society is something else entirely. While I do not want to underestimate the honesty and importance of the ČOI audits, the optimistic conclusions drawn by the agency from them are inappropriate.
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