European retailers and other industry user groups are calling for the early distribution of the new euro coins and notes before the year-end deadline to avoid chaos and confusion at EU cash tills.
"The time has come for European and national decision-makers to take action to prevent consumer confusion and frustration when euro notes and coins become legal tender on January 1, 2002," say the companies in a joint statement issued on a specially built campaigning Web site, (www.eday2002.org). "Businesses handling cash believe that the current plans for consumers to pay in national currency and accept change in euro in the first few days of next year will lead to confusion, mistakes and queues. That will damage acceptance of the euro."
The currency conversion timetable calls for a phased withdrawal of national notes and coins over a two-month period between January and March 2002. During this time, the new euro notes and coins will circulate alongside national currencies.
The business lobby is calling for the the authorities to allow consumers to acquire euro notes in late December 2001 so that they have them in their pockets on 1 January, 2002.
"If shopping is more difficult, consumers will only buy essentials. This will have knock-on effects for the economy as a whole," say the companies. "Electronic payment systems are not the answer. There are doubts about their capacity to handle increased demand, and they are costly for small businesses in most countries."
Retailers are campaigning for wider distribution of smaller denomination euro notes and coins and an early withdrawal of larger national currency notes to prevent cash shortages at the point-of-sale and alleviate logistical problems for cash-in-transit companies. They also say five and ten euro notes should initially be available through automated teller machines (ATMs) from 1 January.