Fresh bid for 24-hour shopping

10th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 June 2004 , BERLIN - Germany's states are building up to launch a new campaign for 24-hour shopping in Europe's biggest economy after the nation's highest court rejected a bid to liberalise the country's retail trading hours.

10 June 2004

BERLIN - Germany's states are building up to launch a new campaign for 24-hour shopping in Europe's biggest economy after the nation's highest court rejected a bid to liberalise the country's retail trading hours.

But in handing down its decision Wednesday, the Federal Constitutional Court also appeared to strengthen the states' rights to determine shopping hours and as a result helping to underpin their new drive to overthrow the so-called Ladenschlussgesetz, the law which regulates when shops can open in the country.

"The Federal Government must now quickly create the basis for the states to independently forge new regulations," said Ulrich Junghanns, Economics Minister for the eastern German state of Brandenburg.

His comments were echoed by ministers from several of Germany's 16 states including Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony and Hesse as well as the city authorities in Berlin, the nation's capital who each called for abandoning the existing law which requires shops to close at 8 pm during the week and on Saturdays.

Shops in petrol stations, train stations and in tourist and recreation areas are allowed to open longer.

"The constitutional court has put the ball in Berlin's court," said the president of Germany's retail traders' association (HDE).

With changes to the restrictions on shop hours often seen as a test of Germany's ability to press on with economic reform, Federal Economics and Labour Minister Wolfgang Clement has already outlined plans to push through parliament a law that would remove all restrictions on retail trading during weekdays.

In its decision the constitutional court ruled that Germany's retail trading laws did not violate the constitution adding that employees had the constitutional right not to work on Sundays and holidays.

However the court did say that Germany's states could change shop opening hours in agreement with the federal government.

Under the Clement plan, states would then be given the right to decide whether open on Sundays or public holidays. Up until now, trading on Sunday has been considered to be something of a taboo in Germany.

But shop the trading law, which dates back to the 1956, has been gradually wound back in recent years. In the early 1990's shops in Germany were required to close by about 6.30 pm. There was no Saturday afternoon trading.

However, after a series of changes in the wake of German unification in 1990 the laws have been freed up with shops allowed to open under certain conditions on some Sundays and a new set of rules introduced last June allowing retailers to stay open until 8pm on Saturdays.

Leading the charge to abandon the Ladenschlussgesetz have been the so-called new states in Germany's eastern half who see liberalising the shopping laws as helping to boost the fortunes of their hard-pressed economies.

Indeed, Clement also sees removing the law as helping to boost consumer spending in the country, which is acting as a drag on the economic recovery currently underway in the nation.

The case followed a complaint by retail giant Metro's Kaufhof offshoot that the shop trading laws as they existed now were not fair and gave an advantage to shops in areas that enjoyed exceptions.

Moreover with unemployment in the nation stuck at 10.5 percent and less jobs emerging in manufacturing industry, many economists believe that freeing up the retail trading laws will help to encourage the growth of the nation's service sector.

[Copyright DPA with Expatica]

 

Subject: German news 

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