Consumers cry foul over excessive price increases

Housewife Susanna Michos, 70, has no doubts who is responsible for the wave of prices increases seen in recent weeks. «It’s the new currency. The euro has brought us high prices,» she moans. She cites the price of a loaf of bread, which used to cost 300 drachmas (88 cents) before the introduction of the euro but which now costs 1 euro. «Before [the launch of the euro], my husband’s pension was more than adequate for our monthly needs. Now, it’s only enough for the first 20 days of the month, after which I have to count every cent,» Michos laments. Angela Orfanoudaki, 45, a publishing executive with two children, is equally insistent on the root cause of sharp price increases. «This rounding thing is very much against consumers,» she says. «The price increases might not be perceptible for individual items but the difference is clear in overall spending.» Orfanoudaki says her weekly bill at the supermarket has soared by a quarter since she started using the new currency. The Institute of Consumer Protection (INKA) says consumers should show their anger at excessive price increases by boycotting retailers today, a move endorsed by the government. INKA head Haralambos Kouris told Kathimerini English Edition that the one-day, nationwide boycott is meant to be a warning shot at retailers. «It’s a symbolic protest. I’m confident that consumers will participate [today]. We also have support from the government and various professional bodies,» he said. He said INKA is prepared to reinforce its message by calling for sectoral boycotts. The government, for its part, has urged consumers to join in the boycott, in the hope that public anger might help stop the price spiral. Rising inflation could clip economic growth, erode Greek competitiveness and impede job creation, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis reiterated yesterday. Above-average inflation has been a thorn in the government’s side for some time now. While consumer prices remained unchanged in July – at 3.6 percent on a harmonized basis – the expectation is that inflation will continue to exceed EU averages in the remaining months on the back of «accelerating labor costs, a closing output gap and persisting rigidities in key domestic goods and services markets,» EFG Eurobank Ergasias said in a July research note. The government, however, has laid the blame for the spike in consumer prices on the retail sector and even threatened to unleash the financial crimes squad on overcharging retailers. Merchants, however, have not taken kindly to the accusations. The National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce said yesterday that weak demand has prevented price increases along the lines that its members would like, with price hikes hardly exceeding the inflation rate. The Hellenic Retail Business Associations said a dialogue involving all parties would be more productive than a boycott.

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