German States Move to Regulate Retail Hours | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 24.09.2004
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German States Move to Regulate Retail Hours

While German states seek power to regulate their relatively conservative shop opening hours, most other EU countries have already adopted liberal laws.


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German states passed a motion in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, on Friday to give themselves power to regulate retail opening hours.

Most of the country's 16 states want to do away with all barriers to weekday trading hours. If the motion passes the lower house of parliament, Germany could soon join the ranks of EU countries who long ago adopted a more liberal stance on shopping hours. Only Austria and Italy take after Germany in their restrictive regulations on opening times.

Strict regulations

Ladenschluss Gesetz

A sign in a department store in Bremen details the opening hours.

In Austria, stores are allowed to open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays shops must close by 6 p.m. at the latest. However, tourist areas may extend opening hours from 66 to a maximum of 72 hour per week. As in Germany, regional exceptions aside, stores are prohibited from opening on Sundays and public holidays.

In Italy, stores close at 10 p.m. on weekdays and at 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Italian law also prohibits Sunday shopping, except in regions that rely heavily on tourism.

Sunday remains sacrosanct

Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain have also decided against shopping on Sundays and public holidays.

But when it comes to weekday regulations, these countries are far more liberal than Germany. Greek shop owners enjoy unlimited opening hours from Monday to Saturday. Only on Saturdays do shops in Denmark have to close by 5 p.m. while in the Netherlands, stores can open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week.

Shopping til you drop

Frau im CD Laden

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Store hours are generally unlimited in France, where shop owners have the freedom to decide over opening hours. Customers can also shop on Sundays and on public holidays. However, there are certain restrictions in place for the protection of staff members. Belgium abides by similar regulations.

The British and the Irish, however, can shop till they drop. Only on Sundays are opening hours limited in favor of smaller retailers.

In Poland, there are no restrictions on opening hours. Swedish and Portuguese shop owners also enjoy more liberal opening hours, although they are required to close their shops after midnight on Saturdays.

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