Meal cheques given by employers will only be valid for the purchase of food items in supermarkets from 1 September, the retail federation Comeos has announced.
Meal cheques are a tax-free advantage offered by some employers to staff, and while technically the purpose has always been to use them in payment for food, it has become more common over time for supermarkets to allow them to be used for a wide range of non-food purchases.
However that practice is due to come to an end at the start of next month. In the latest edition of its publicity free-sheet, the Colruyt chain, which includes Bio-Planet, Spar and Okay, informs readers that from 1 September, meal vouchers may only be used in payment for food items.
“In consultation with the publishers of the meal vouchers and sector federation Comeos, we have entered into a commitment to automate this process,” said Colruyt spokesperson Silja Decock.
“A straightforward and unambiguous application is transparent for the customer and relieves the store staff of the responsibility.”
Likewise, Delhaize said it would be reconfiguring its cash register system from 1 September, making it impossible to use meal vouchers to pay for non-food items.
The meal vouchers system is governed by the members of the Voucher Issuers Association (VIA), and it was VIA who insisted on a more effective policing of the system, according to Comeos.
“It is no easy matter to do that 100% correctly, so a timeline was agreed to adjust the point of sale systems,” explained Wim Van Edom of Comeos. “That was somewhat disrupted by the corona crisis, but the deadline was finally set for September.”
Just over two million employees in Belgium receive meal vouchers as part of their work remuneration, according to VIA, and for every €1 contributed by the employers, €1.80 is spent in the local economy. The meal voucher market in 2019 was worth €2.65 billion.