Thursday

21st Jan 2021

Commission frowns on shop signs that say: '€500 notes not accepted'

  • Retailers should not avoid big euro banknotes as a matter of practice (Photo: 1suisse)

The European Commission has frowned upon the practice of shops that put up signs saying that they do not accept €200 or €500 bank notes.

At the other end of the scale, machines such as parking meters and bus ticket dispensers that do not accept one- and two-cent euro coins, or rules that require all prices to be rounded up to the nearest five cents are also not in keeping with the spirit of the whole euro project.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

According to a commission recommendation issued on Monday (22 March), retailers should not be allowed to put up signs banning the use of high-value banknotes. Refusal to accept these bills is fine from time to time if a shopowner is out of change at a given moment, but this should not be a permanent rule, the commission has said.

Finding the tiny one- and two-cent coins more trouble than they are worth, Finland and the Netherlands have adopted rules rounding up prices to the nearest five cents, but Brussels says states should refrain from further such rules and stressed the right to use one- and two-cent coins.

Given their low value, most automatic payment options, for instance in parking lots, public transportation or food automats, frequently do not allow payments with one and two cent coins.

In adopting the recommendation, the commission said it was only a series of guidelines on the use of notes and coins, but if the European capital is not satisfied with the way they are being applied by member states, the guidelines could become rules.

The guidelines are "soft law", meaning non-binding regulations, but mandatory option could be taken in three years, when the commission will evaluate the way the new principles are being implemented.

The status of the legal tender of euro banknotes and coins was laid down by EU law when the euro was adopted in 2002, but implementation of the law still varies due to different legal traditions in the 16 eurozone countries.

So far, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain have adopted the single currency. Estonia is likely to join in January 2011.

"This recommendation brings practical benefits for European citizens in their everyday life. It is a matter of consumer rights that payments in cash should, as a rule, be always accepted in shops," EU monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said in a press statement.

The commission also warned that retailers should not impose surcharges on the use of cash instead of credit cards, a rather unusual option that to this date has not actually been imposed by any shops, but the possibility of doing so does exist in theory and Brussels wants to stamp out the idea before it materialises.

According to commission experts, such a possibility exists in some member states where national laws applying the EU rules allow retailers to charge extra on certain means of payments but do not explicitly prohibit surcharging cash payments.

Additionally, using coins and banknotes for artistic purposes "should be tolerated", the commission says, and individuals should also be permitted to destroy banknotes and coins "in small quantities."

This reflects a tension between two schools of thought – more liberal countries consider the bearer and owner of the banknote free to do what ever he wants with his own good, while in a few member states the banknote is considered a public good and intentionally damaging such an item could be sanctioned.

As to national authorities, they should no longer be allowed to decide "in isolation" whether to destroy coins and banknotes that may still be useable without notifying the European bodies dealing with monetary issues.

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Warsaw and Budapest seek EU funds despite national veto

A senior EU diplomat said Poland and Hungary should lift their veto or give a signal they are willing to do by Tuesday - otherwise there will be alternative plans for a recovery fund with the other 25 member states.

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

EU budget talks suspended in fight for new funds

MEPs are requesting additional, new funding of €39bn for 15 EU programs. The German presidency argues that budget ceilings, agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in July, will be impossible to change without a new leaders' meeting.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary gives initial ok for UK and Russian vaccines
  2. Russia files for Sputnik vaccine registration in EU
  3. Destruction and three deaths in Madrid explosion
  4. Liberals kick out Lithuanian MEP for homophobic jibes
  5. Air pollution killing thousands of Europeans a year
  6. First migrant tragedy of 2021 claims 43 lives
  7. Train revival needed to meet EU climate goals
  8. NGOs shame Monaco for persecuting UK whistleblower

Budget deal struck, with Hungary threat still hanging

Ultimately, the European Parliament managed to squeeze an extra €16bn in total - which will be financed with competition fines the EU Commission hands out over the next seven years, plus reallocations within the budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. US returns to climate deal and WHO, as EU 'rejoices'
  2. Big tech: From Trump's best friend to censorship machine?
  3. Turkish minister in Brussels to discuss new migrant deal
  4. EU leaders to discuss vaccine certificates
  5. On Erdoğan and Europe's 'ontological' choice
  6. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  7. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  8. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us