Town to be guinea pig in trial to get rid of small change
ONE- and two-cent coins are to be rounded out of Wexford town in a bid to see if consumers will accept getting rid of pesky small change.
But with money tight, one shopkeeper in the town predicted that consumers would be hostile to the move if they saw prices going up as a result.
The Central Bank announced that Wexford will host a one-cent and two-cent rounding trial this autumn to gauge the reaction of consumers and retailers to the change, which it would like to introduce nationwide.
Prices will be rounded off to the nearest five cent at the till.
The rounding will not apply to each individual item purchased; it will only be carried out on the final shopping bill.
Anne Marie Fortune, who manages Pettitt's Supervalu in the town, predicted that shoppers might be hostile to the move. She said: "People need all their cents in the current climate and a lot are counting out every last one, so it won't go down well."
While there would be winners as well as losers from the rounding process, people would be more likely to remember if they lost out, said Ms Fortune, adding: "People are more prone to seeing prices go up than down – that's just the way it is."
However, the fact that rounding would only be carried out on the final bill might lessen the impact, Ms Fortune said.
The Central Bank is keen to reduce the use of small coins. They are a nuisance for it to manage as they keep going out of circulation and so more have to be supplied.
The EU is also keen to discourage their use and the trial announced for Wexford is part of the Central Bank's National Payments Plan for transforming how people spend their money.
The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) said it had insisted to the Central Bank that only the final bill should be rounded off. It would have been unacceptable if individual prices had been rounded off.
However, consumer watchdogs must monitor prices to ensure retailers do not round them up over time, as happened during the switchover to the euro, said the CAI's chief executive, Dermott Jewell.