It is time to talk about reducing the use of one and two-cent coins

Keywords: 
  • People receive one and two-cent coins as change from shops but very rarely use them for paying with
  • Only the final total price to be paid need be rounded, not the price of each individual item
  • The final price could be rounded mathematically up or down to the nearest five cents
  • One and two-cent coins could still be used for payments, but would not be given out any more from shop tills
  • Opinion surveys show more than half the Estonian population are in favour of such rounding

At the Estonian Payment Forum today Eesti Pank proposed a discussion of whether it would be reasonable in future to start rounding the final price to be paid for purchases at cash tills up or down to the nearest five cents to reduce the use of one and two-cent coins in Estonia.

“Eesti Pank issues on average two truckloads a year of one and two-cent coins that shops then give out as change and that are then used very little. The central bank believes it is worth discussing whether fewer of those coins that are very rarely used could be in circulation”, explained Madis Müller, Deputy Governor of Eesti Pank.

It is proposed that the prices of individual products or services not be rounded, but that only the final purchase price to be paid at the till be changed. The price would be rounded mathematically up or down to the nearest five cents. So if the price of a biscuit is 24 cents, two biscuits would cost 48 cents and the purchase price would be rounded up at the till to 50 cents, but for three biscuits the price would be 72 cents, and this would be rounded down to 70 cents.

Mr Müller said that the rounding at the till would not lead to any rise in prices as it would be done up or down mathematically and the seller cannot affect what people put in their shopping baskets and what the final price would be.

It would still be possible to pay with one and two-cent coins, but they would not be given out to shoppers from the cash tills. The central bank proposes that rounding would only be used for purchases paid for in cash, and that card payments would continue to use the exact price.

Rounding would need shopkeepers to make a one-off update to the software in their tills. Nele Peil, General Manager of the Estonian Retailers’ Association said that rounding is in general good for retailers and for customers. “Shop assistants will need to spend less time counting coins and on other business involving cents. Customers currently receive one and two-cent coins from shops as change, but pay with them very rarely. Low-value coins are mostly left lying around as many people find such small coins to be a nuisance. We would support a solution where the final prices for card payments at tills are not rounded, but where cash payments would be rounded mathematically, like Eesti Pank is proposing”.

Recent opinion surveys have shown that more than half the people in Estonia would support the introduction of the rules on rounding. The survey of the payment behaviour of Estonian households in September last year found that 57% of people in Estonia were in favour of rounding, 33% were opposed, and 10% could not say. The Eurobarometer survey last October found that 61% of people in Estonia were in favour of rounding, 32% were opposed, and 7% could not say.

The introduction of rounding rules has not happened uniformly across the euro area. The European Commission recommends that rounding rules should not be introduced if there is not public support for it in that country. The five countries in the euro area that have rounding rules for one and two-cent coins are Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and, as of this year, Italy. The experience of Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland shows that rounding did not raise prices. There is more support than opposition for rounding in all five countries now.

The next step is for Eesti Pank to collect feedback from a range of interest groups about the proposed rounding rules.


Background 

The Estonian Payment Forum supports the development of the Estonian payment market. It was founded jointly in 2011 by Eesti Pank, the Ministry of Finance and the Estonian Banking Association, and is also attended by the banks, the Consumer Protection Board and other market participants.

More on the survey of financial behaviour and the Eurobarometer, where people in Estonia give their opinion on rounding rules.

​For further information:
Viljar Rääsk
Public Relations Office
Eesti Pank
Tel: 668 0745, 527 5055
Press enquiries: press [at] eestipank.ee

Nele Peil
Estonian Retailers’ Association
56 634 434
nele.peil [at] kaupmeesteliit.ee