Brussels, 22 March 2010
Commission adopts a recommendation on the scope and effects of legal tender of euro banknotes and coins
The Commission has adopted today a recommendation on the legal tender of the euro banknotes and coins, a legal concept which has concrete implications for the daily life of European citizens. Although euro-area Member States share a single currency, interpretations of what its legal tender status means may still differ across countries, depending on Member States' pre-euro legal traditions. This recommendation clarifies the scope and effects of the legal tender of euro cash in the euro area. The recommendation gives useful guiding on many practical questions related to payments with euro banknotes and coins, for example that payments in cash, including high denomination banknotes, should, in principle, not be refused by retailers or that payments with banknotes and coins should not be surcharged.
Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said: "This recommendation brings practical benefits for European citizens in their everyday life. It is a matter of consumer rights that payments in cash should, as a rule, be always accepted in shops ".
Since 2002 and the introduction of the euro as a physical currency, the status of legal tender of euro banknotes and coins is not anymore laid down in national legislation but in European Union law. The legal tender status of euro banknotes is laid down in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Additionally the Council regulation 974/98 of 3 May 1998 on the adoption of the euro contains basic elements on the legal tender of euro banknotes and coins. Beyond these basic principles, the scope and effects of the legal tender of euro cash are de facto still regulated within the various national contexts. The purpose of the recommendation on the scope and effects of legal tender of euro banknotes and coins is to define common guiding principles.
The recommendation is a result of extensive consultations of Member States' experts in 2009 within an ad-hoc working group - the Euro Legal Tender Experts Group (ELTEG). The group was co-chaired by the Commission and the European Central Bank, and gathered representatives of Ministries of Finance and National Central Banks of all euro area-Member States.
The recommendation lays down ten guiding principles:
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