German shoppers in open revolt at flagrant price hikes

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The Independent Online

Germany's attempt to stop the euro being used as an excuse to push up prices appeared to be failing yesterday when the government conceded it had no legal powers to prevent the practice.

Germany's attempt to stop the euro being used as an excuse to push up prices appeared to be failing yesterday when the government conceded it had no legal powers to prevent the practice.

The admission by Renate Künast, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Green Consumer Protection Minister, came at the start of an emergency prices summit in Berlin. The cost of 80 per cent of goods and services in Germany has increased by an average of 10 per cent since the euro's introduction in January, a study has revealed.

The meeting had been called to address complaints from the German public about flagrant price increases and a consumer boycott of restaurants and goods. Opinion polls suggest 54 per cent of Germans want the return of the DMark.

Mrs Künast said Germany would not be taking action to outlaw euro-linked price increases. "There will be no means of pressurising retailers into offering fairer prices," she said. "However, I am sure that we will find one way or another of establishing who deals fairly and who is the black sheep."

Hubertus Pellengahr, the head of the country's Retailers' Association, flatly refused to accept that the increases were connected to the euro. "They are connected to seasonal fluctuations. Nobody is forcing consumers to buy tomatoes when they are at their most expensive," he said.

But a survey for the television channel ARD showed that prices of milk products and beer typically had gone up by 7 per cent, with no seasonal explanation. Fruit and vegetable prices were up by 14 per cent, on average, partly because of a cold winter.

The worst offenders appear to be restaurants, where the average price of a meal has gone up by 10 per cent since January. Any broadening of the current consumer boycott could damage Mr Schröder's chances in autumn elections.

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