Maaten calls for ‘euro cheat’ taxi probe

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Series Details Vol.7, No.40, 1.11.01, p5
Publication Date 31/10/2001
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Date: 31/10/01

By Laurence Frost

THE MEP appointed to monitor the single currency launch is calling for an investigation into allegations that Brussels taxi drivers have been using false conversion rates to 'cheat' passengers.

Jules Maaten, a member of the Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, said he had received complaints that taxi drivers have been converting euro prices displayed on their counters at a rate of 50 Belgian francs to the euro - about 25 higher than the real rate.

The Dutch conservative MEP said he would be writing to the Brussels regional government, asking them to investigate the claims. "I've heard too many people who have said this to be able to dismiss it as an unfounded rumour," he said.

Maaten's call comes just a week before he is due to present new evidence to his committee showing that the inflationary effect of the single currency launch is turning out to be smaller than had been feared.

Data from the German institute for economic statistics, the Statistische Bundesampt, suggests only around one in ten of the price increases it has observed are due to conversions into euro prices. This could generate overall price increases of 0.2-0.4 in Germany, according to the institute - a far cry from fears voiced in some quarters of 3-5 price inflation.

But Maaten has cautioned against complacency, saying the lack of preparations by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could have simply delayed the price increases.

According to the figures he will present next week, only 20 of SMEs will start bookkeeping in euro on 1 January. Maaten said cash transactions such as taxi fares and market purchases were among the most likely to face an inflationary rise in prices. "It's also areas like these which are most vulnerable to cheating," he added. The Brussels regional government said it was unaware of reports of fraudulent euro conversions by taxi drivers, but said the administration would take any complaint seriously. "Mr Maaten should write to us about this," said Michaela Popescu, director of the city's taxi service. "If this is happening it's unacceptable."

This article discusses various aspects of the changeover to the euro as reported by MEP rapporteur Jules Maaten

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