Exclusive: Plan to scrap one and two cent coins gets Government go-ahead

Madeleine Quirke said the trial was hugely successful

The Government is set to approve the removing of one and two cent coins from circulation nationally following local trials which have been deemed a “massive success”.

Government sources have told the Irish Independent that the matter is to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow.

It is understood Finance Minister Michael Noonan will bring the memo recommending the withdrawal of the coins, which cost more to mint than they are worth.

Last year, the National Payments Plan (NPP) recommended that a trial in Wexford in which one and two cent coins were taken out of circulation be rolled out nationally.

One and two cent coins are minted more than other coins, but go out of circulation quickly as people stockpile them.

The results of the trial, which ran from September 16 to November 17, 2013, showed strong support for the measure from both consumers and retailers. During the trial, retailers rounded cash transactions to the nearest five cent at the cash register, removing the need for one and two cent coins in change.

Five EU member states, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Hungary, have already adopted a rounding policy.

At the time, NPP programme manager Ronnie O’Toole said that prices in Wexford did not go up as a result of the initiative. The NPP ran a “mystery shopping” survey, in which it went into a number of shops and bought a set number of items before and after the trial. There was no change in the price of the goods.

Madeleine Quirke, CEO of Wexford Chamber of Commerce, said the programme was hugely successful with businesses and consumers alike.

“We have had very little resistance from customers or businesses… as far as we are concerned it has been a massive success,” she said.

“We would welcome a nationwide roll-out and feel the time and expense spared by businesses will serve the economy well in the long run.”

Mayor of Wexford town George Lawlor argued that doing away with the coins made “no real difference to the consumer” but helped businesses.

“It cut down considerably on banking and handling costs. If you consider how long it would take to count all these small coins, it seriously adds up.”

Figures have revealed it costs more than €3.5m to produce one and two cent coins. It is estimated that some €35m worth of the copper currency is stashed away in penny jars across the country, costing the economy more than €10m a year. It costs 1.65c to mint each one cent coin and 2.07c to mint each two cent coin.

Over the past decade the mint in Sandyford in Dublin has pumped out more than 1,074 million one cent coins and 906 million two cent coins.

A number of charities have raised concerns about the loss of the coins fearing they will see a loss in revenue at their checkout collection boxes.


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