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Italy to stop clutter with small coin ban

May 29, 2017

The useless coins are just abandoned in car doors, hallway drawers and at supermarket checkouts, says the bill's backer. Germany, ever fond of the cash economy, decided a few years ago to keep the change.

Italienische Euro Münzen
Image: picture-alliance / Picture-Alliance / dpa

Italy will no longer mint 1- and 2-cent euro coins from 2018, a parliamentary committee decided at the weekend.

The move means all prices in Italy will be rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

Italians were receiving the small copper coins as change but were not spending them, claimed Sergio Boccadutri, the member of the ruling center-left Democratic Party who proposed the measure.

The coins are not accepted by parking meters, vending machines or toll booths, he told national business daily Il Sole 24 Ore. He said they were often left in drawers at home, abandoned in car doors or left at the supermarket checkouts to avoid cluttering pockets.

"In short, it is a production loss, because they cost more than they are worth," he told the newspaper.

Since the euro was introduced in 2004, Italy has spent millions on manufacturing the coins, whose inside is made of iron and whose outside is copper. 

In Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Ireland, prices are often rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cents to avoid using the smaller denominations, though they remain legal tender.

Germany keeps the change

Other European Union countries, including Germany, have also considered scrapping the 1- and 2-cent coins, but decided against it.

In 2013 the European Commission reported that the difference between production costs for the small coins and their face value since their introduction had grown to more than 1.4 billion euros (US $1.8 billion at the time).

Stefan Hertel, press spokesman for the German trade association HDE, told Deutsche Welle at the time, "There are relevant surveys, including from the German Central Bank, that show that a huge majority of consumers like the 1- and 2-cent coins and want to keep them."

In Germany an estimated 79 percent of all transactions are conducted in cash.

German retailers also wanted to keep the coins, if only to continue the trend of so-called psychological pricing (sometimes called charm pricing) - for instance, when a product is listed at 9.99 euros rather than the full 10.

Last year the Governing Council of the European Central Bank decided that it would phase out the 500-euro note to curb terrorist financing and money laundering. It became the first and only euro denomination to be discontinued since the euro's introduction.

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