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German Press Review: Restrictive German Store Hours Obsolete

German editorialists commented on a failed attempt to overturn the law restricting shopping hours to 8 p.m. in Germany as well as the sentencing of three young men for ritually abusing a peer.

In Hildesheim, Germany, a court condemned nine young men to sentences ranging from probation to 18 months in prison for ritually abusing a peer for over three months. The Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung from Essen called the teens swines. They took a 16-year old, tormented and humiliated him. The main culprits have received juvenile sentences that only require them to spend their nights in a correctional facility. During the day, they can pursue job training. The paper wrote that they have a last chance to save themselves. The Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung said it was hopeful that the apologies the young men made to their victim during the trial were sincere and merely uttered on the advice of their lawyers.

The Coburger Tageblatt wrote that the verdict was harsh but correct. It pointed out that another trial just began in which a group of teenagers, the youngest one being 12, killed a homeless man. Rather than pleading for stricter laws against neglected adolescents, the Coburg daily said parents and other adults should look at themselves in the mirror since they are the ones who failed.

The Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest legal instance, has put the ball back in the government’s court, wrote Berlin’s Die Welt. The laws restricting shop hours were deemed constitutional, and the judges in Karlsruhe suggested that the question is one for the state governments. The daily said that regional legislatures should deal with the matter, not the seemingly overburdened federal government. But they should be so kind as to do so before the end of this century. It is embarrassing enough that the world laughs about our shop hours. But who can take Germany seriously when a rampantly growing bureaucracy is messing about with shoppers, the paper asked.

The center-left governing coalition pulled the short straw with the shop hour verdict wrote the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. The most comfortable solution for Berlin would have been if the Constitutional Court had ruled that the legislation on store hours must be changed, no matter in what form. Now, the Cologne paper observed, the federal government has to act and allow the individual states to develop fundamentally new concepts with regards to shopping hours.

Yes, the government can dictate store hours, but it doesn’t have to, the Financial Times Deutschland wrote. The law has de facto already been more or less liberalized. Gas stations and train station shops sell almost everything under the sun by calling them travel items. The disadvantages to other shops are obvious as well as unjustified, wrote the Hamburg financial daily. The states would be well-advised to scrap the remnants of the shop hours law and leave the decision to department stores, supermarkets and boutiques. Towns and villages could preserve the current laws that require businesses to be closed on Sunday and holidays. Of course, the paper noted, workers will howl about the extra flexibility demanded of them, but if they work in a service-oriented business, they should keep the saying in mind that the customer is king.

The Lübecker Nachrichten wrote that salespeople across Germany have reason to be happy, since at least one free day will be reserved for them. But who knows how much longer it will last? Individual states will eventually allow stores to stay open past 8 p.m. The rigid and anachronistic maxim “I’ll never work on Sunday” won’t last forever, the Lübeck paper said.

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