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Report of the expert working group on "Technical and cost aspects of dual displays".

Report of the expert working group on "Technical and cost aspects of dual displays".pdf

As a follow-up to the round table of 15 May 1997 on the practicalities of introducing the euro, expert consultative group on "Technical and cost aspects of dual displays" was set up. This report presents the findings of the expert consultative group. It does not reflect the views of the European Commission, nor does it commit the Commission to its conclusions. Rather it aims to serve as an input to the reflections of the European Commission and national authorities on the question of dual displays. It also to seeks to provide practical guidance and encouragement to enterprises that may wish to undertake dual displays. Section 2 focuses on how dual display can assist in the changeover to the euro, not least by making it as consumer friendly as possible. It also points out certain limits and constraints of dual displays. Section 3 examines the technical and cost aspects of dual display in the retail sector. Section 4 consists of case studies of retail sectors with specific needs, and sections 5 and 6 present examples of preparations for dual display in the financial and public sectors.

II/734/97-EN

Executive Summary

FINDINGS (Summary by the group’s secretariat)

1. Dual displays will play a key role in facilitating the switchover to the euro for consumers, retailers and providers of services. They are, however, only one of many instruments which will be used in this process, and could form part of a global communications strategy.

2. Given the diversity of pricing systems currently in use, the many factors which influence the technical aspects of dual displays, and the specific needs of certain activities (small shops, travel agents, petrol retailers, mail order and distance sales), it is imperative that there be flexibility in the approach to dual displays. Flexibility will facilitate the development of dual displays which best meet the needs of consumers. It will also allow retailers to develop dual display in a format that best fits the technical characteristics of their existing equipment. It will thus help keep the costs of dual display to a minimum, costs which in part would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

3. Imposing dual display requirements that necessitate expensive modifications to existing equipment, or the purchase of new equipment, solely for the purpose of dual display, should be avoided. This is particularly the case where existing equipment could function perfectly well in euros after -day. In such cases, other means must be found to ensure that consumers receive the necessary information on prices. Limiting dual display to the final price to be paid by consumers (i.e. not of unit and promotional prices), to the totals on till receipts and bills, and to balances on financial statements, will also minimise the need for hardware and software changes, and hence help to keep costs down.

4. Consistent with this need to minimise costs, the group urges retailers, where possible, to take into account the dual display issue in all existing and planned investment projects. A great deal of equipment in the retail sector is due to be replaced in any event before 2002, either as a result of technological upgrading, or in order to cope with other challenges such as the year 2000 problem.

5. In addition, it is essential that both Community and national authorities clarify the regulatory framework for dual display without delay. Companies urgently require such clarity if they are to finalise their changeover plans and to make the necessary investments. Confusion and/or delay on this matter will impose unnecessary additional costs on private operators.

6. With a view to providing clarity and certainty to citizens, certain basic practices could be followed whenever there are dual displays:

  • first, the fixed conversion rates should be used when calculating the counter-values in dual displays;
  • secondly, a dual display should not place an obligation on the retailer to accept payments in euros during the transitional period as this would de facto breach the "no obligation - no prohibition principle". Retailers should therefore indicate clearly whether they are prepared to accept payment in euros during the transitional period;
  • thirdly, there should be a clear distinction between the reference unit (the unit in which the price or value is denominated) and the counter-value which is displayed for information purposes only;
  • fourthly, dual display may benefit from common formats or design. Given that rigid requirements would again risk imposing excessive costs, voluntary agreements on common formats or design should be encouraged.
(Euro Papers. 13. December 1997. Brussels. Tab. Ann. Free.)

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