Shopkeepers accused of cheating the new price round-up system
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    Shopkeepers accused of cheating the new price round-up system

    Rounding up can also apply to electronic payments, if well signalled by the shop. Credit: Test-Achats

    It’s only been a matter of days since retailers were allowed to round off prices for cash payments, and already customers are complaining of dirty tricks.

    Since 1 December, the price you pay in the shops is rounded up or down to the nearest five cents. For example: €2.51 becomes €2.50, while €2.54 becomes €2.55 and €2.58 becomes €3.00.

    The measure applies mainly to cash payments and is intended to reduce the number of one and two cent coins in circulation.

    However, according to consumer protection organisation Test-Achats, some retailers have been caught rounding up prices for electronic payments without warning. The difference in that case is simple: prices are only ever rounded up, never down. While the cash system balances out in the long run for the customer and the retailer, when it goes only one way, the retailer stands to make a sizeable sum of money for nothing. While the individual sums involved are only a matter of cents, with hundreds of clients over the course of a day, the sums soon add up.

    In fact, rounding off prices for card payments is legal, but it must be clearly announced at the check-out, and of course it must work in both directions. According to the complaints received by Test-Achats, this is often not the case.

    The new rules on rounding off don’t imply the end of the one and two cent coins, They will continue to be legal tender,” said spokesperson Simon November. “Shops are not allowed to refuse to accept them, as long as they are used in a reasonable quantity (maximum 50 coins per payment). And the customer also cannot refuse to accept them when a retailer gives them in change.”

    Customers who discover such a technique in action can complain to Test-Achats either on the organisation’s Facebook page, or by telephone on 02 542 33 44. The organisation will gather complaints together to get an idea of the scope of the problem, in order to inform the federal economy ministry who can then take action if necessary.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times