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Germans make their mark over euro gripes.

The euro's honeymoon is over and, in Germany at least, the politicians are beginning to take notice.

Five months after the colourful notes replaced 12 national currencies in a burst of euphoria, complaints persist across Europe that opportunistic businesses slipped outrageous price rises past their unsuspecting customers.

'For everyday goods, the old price in marks has sometimes been replaced by the same number in euros,' making the new prices about double, complained Mike Neumann, aged 36, outside a vegetable market at Berlin's Friedrichstrasse station.

He cited fruit and vegetable markets as the worst offenders - but many people have similar tales of outrageously inflated beer or meals in restaurants.

Much of the evidence is anecdotal. Inflation in the euro zone has moved little in recent months - perhaps because items that were marked up have little weight in the mixture of goods used to measure it, and major expenses such as rents remained unchanged.

Common complaints about inflated produce prices are dismissed by retailers as a result of the cold winter - not the euro.

The European Commission has estimated that the euro introduction may have increased prices overall by up to 0.16 per cent. But consumers don't trust the numbers.

'All prices are rounded up royally,' said Brian Rijngoud, marketing manager at leisure firm Coronel Kartracing in Amsterdam. 'A round of drinks used to be 25 guilders (11.34 euros); now it's more like 20 euros.'

In Germany, the currency's nickname - the teuro, a play on the German word for expensive, teuer - has gained a new lease of life. A recent survey suggested more than half of Germans, given the choice, would have their trusted mark back.

Amid a high-profile campaign against 'euro gougers' by the country's most widely read paper, Bild, the government - which faces elections in September - has convened a meeting with business and consumer representatives in an effort to address those fears.

It comes the week after Bild launched its 'teuro sheriff' campaign, offering a daily diet of euro-related horrors ranging from carrots to car batteries.

Examples have included a family season ticket to a Bavarian swimming pool that now costs 66 euros, up from 51.13 euros and a Snickers bar that has crept up to 70 euro cents at a Hamburg filling station from 1 mark (51 euro cents). While ministers admit there's little they can do to force down the price of a haircut or a cappuccino, they hope they can restore some trust.

Complaints extend well beyond Germany, said Caroline Hayat, a Brussels-based spokeswoman for the European Consumers' Organisation, grouping of associations. As people's complaints go unaddressed, 'they are getting more upset'.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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