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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 13:23 GMT
Row threatens Finland's euro launch
Helsinki shoppers
This Christmas will be the last when Finns can shops in markkas
By the BBC World Business Report's Greg Morsbach

A row between banks and retailers in Finland is threatening to disrupt the launch of the euro notes and coins.

High Street banks want businesses to pay the usual cash handling fees, even though shops will be handling a lot more money than usual in January and February.

While only 18% of banks in the eurozone as a whole will carry on charging handling fees, Finnish banks say the changeover is already costing them too much to allow fees to be waived.

"[Customers] pay according to the contracts we have done with them on a yearly basis," Timo Linnavuori, senior manager at Nordea bank, told the BBC's World Business Report.

But some retailers say they will encourage customers to use credit cards instead of cash, ultimately delaying the rollout of the new currency.

Foreign banks?

Guy Wires, head of the Retailers' Association, warned that some stores may take their custom to foreign banks if Finnish banks do not change their minds.

"The retail trade is collecting in practice all the markka currency in Finland for the banks," Mr Wires told World Business Report.

"It would be very unfair that the banks charge us for the additional job we are doing for them."

Markus Fogelholm, of the Bankers' Association, estimated that the "transformation of markkas into euros will cost banks 600 to 700 million markka".

"Why should the shops then add to that bill for services which are not overly extraordinary?" Mr Fogelholm said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Morsbach
"Banks argue that shopes only have to return a marginally higher amount of cash"
See also:

29 Aug 01 | Business
Q&A: Euro cash launch
29 Aug 01 | Business
The costs and benefits of the euro
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