Consumer boycott a success

Shopkeepers all over the country saw their turnover fall well over 50 percent yesterday as Greeks refrained from shopping for a day in response to a boycott called by consumer protection watchdogs against the meteoric price hikes that followed Greece’s adoption of the euro. Although overall figures were not available by late yesterday, according to the Institute of Consumer Protection (INKA) – which launched yesterday’s boycott with the somewhat bizarre approval of the government – street fruit and vegetable markets bore the brunt of the protest, followed by department stores. Petrol stations and restaurants were least affected. In Attica, INKA said, by 4.30 p.m. business at street markets, which in general offer lower prices than greengrocers, had declined by 86 percent. Custom at department stores fell 81 percent, and 75 percent at supermarkets. At the other end, turnover at petrol stations was only 34 percent lower, while the corresponding reduction at restaurants and fast-food outlets was 40 percent. «The level of participation was unhoped-for,» INKA President Haralambos Kouris said, «as, by international standards, such a boycott is considered successful if abstention reaches 25 percent. In our case, we believe it exceeded 50 percent.» «Over the past few days we have certain indications that the market has received the message,» Kouris said. «We hope prices will continue to fall or at least stay put, otherwise we will continue with our protests.» Association of Athens Merchants Vice Chairman Nikos Yiannetos said consumers were right to mount the boycott, and conceded that turnover had dropped considerably. But he called for government action. «When the government is trying to convince us that it is fighting inflation, it should not hike the cost of its own services,» he said.

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