Retailers will welcome plans to phase out 1c and 2c coins, but would have preferred if the process had been delayed until after Christmas, according to a representative body.
The scheme will see customers’ change rounded to the nearest five cents, if they consent, reducing the use of one and two cent coins which often end up stored at people’s homes.
Thomas Burke of Retail Ireland said the body’s members broadly support the Central Bank’s plan, following a pilot run of the scheme in Wexford.
Similar measures are in place in EU member states including the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Hungary.
Dr Ronnie O’Toole, an economist at the Central Bank, said the bank expects customers to embrace the change: “Consumers may be surprised at first but, judging from the experience in Wexford, they will embrace rounding very quickly.”
Since the euro was introduced in 2001, Ireland has spent €37 million issuing 1c and 2c coins — minting the coppers at three times the rate of the rest of the eurozone.
Bank bosses hope the change introduced today will reduce the number of one and two cent coins, which are often “stockpiled” in homes.
The scheme was trialled in Wexford in 2013 and businesses and consumers supported the plans.
One and two cent coins will remain legal tender and the change will only apply to cash transactions.
The Central Bank said rounding would not apply to credit card, electronic or cheque payments and it would also only be used on the final cash total of a bill and not to individual goods.
As examples, it said final bills ending in one and two cents or six and seven cents would be rounded down to the nearest five and those ending in three and four cents or eight and nine cents would be rounded up.
Mr Burke said the timing of the run was not ideal for retailers, given they are entering their busiest period in the run up to Christmas.
“There will be software changes required for stores’ IT systems as well as significant staff training,” he said.
However, Mr Burke said Retail Ireland expects the measures to be widely welcomed and adopted. “It is hard to know how many will adopt the system, but a significant number of our members have greeted it and we expect this to increase as the days and weeks go by.”
Meanwhile, a charity has estimated there are €35m worth of one and two cents’ coins in people’s homes, and have called on the public to donate these coins to their campaign.
‘Change for Charity’ is launching National Coin Week which asks people to put their coins to good use from November 2 to 8. The proceeds will be divided between a number of charities — the Irish Heart Foundation, St Francis Hospice, Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, and Gaisce: the President’s Awards.
Another strand of income will be reserved for smaller charities, community projects and youth groups.
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