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Shops cash in on Zimdollar change shortage

ZIMBABWE is currently battling a local currency liquidity crisis which has resulted in large retail shops failing to give change to consumers who buy goods in United States dollars (US$).

Information gathered shows that retail shops are recording excesses of up to $1 million each day from the small amounts of less than US$1 that they fail to give to customers as change due to a shortage of the Zimdollar.

A till operator at one local retail shop told the NewsDay in an interview yesterday that she recorded excess funds of up to $200 000 each day from customers who buy in US dollars, but won’t get their change in local currency.

The till operators, NewsDay heard, sometimes would buy groceries for themselves in-store using the excess funds from the change they withhold from the customers.

Consumers, however, said the retail shops were short-changing them as some deliberately refuse to give them change and maximise on their profits. 

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) yesterday confirmed receiving complaints from disgruntled customers.

“The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe notes consumer complaints relating to unfair conduct prevalent in the market due to shortages of the Zimbabwe dollar currency as some retail shops, commuter (omnibus) operators are forcing consumers, to purchase unbudgeted items such as trinkets, while others are given tokens as change, some leave small amounts in shops without being given an option to utilise their funds,” CCZ executive director Rosemary Mpofu told NewsDay.

“The Consumer Protection Act [Chapter 14:44] section 35 provides for the right to fair, honest dealing and protection from unconscionable conduct, the section explicitly states that every consumer has a right to be treated fairly, honestly in any transaction or promotional activity by any supplier, suppliers of goods and services are prohibited from using forms of coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, physical force or unfair tactics against a consumer.”

A manager in one of the retail shops in Harare also confirmed the shortage of local bank notes.

“We are experiencing a serious shortage of bond notes. Customers use plastic money and US dollars mostly for their transactions,” he said.

“We do not have problems with plastic money, but the challenge is, we do not have smaller denominations for US dollars. Sometimes we give airtime for the Zimdollar change, but the service providers do not sell airtime of below $1 000.”

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu confirmed that the industry was experiencing a shortage of the Zimdollar, but shop owners had to put in place measures to ensure consumer satisfaction for every transaction.

“Generally, there has been a Zimdollar liquidity crunch owing to the monetary policies which led to the stabilisation of the official exchange rate and also the reduction of prices of some commodities,” Mutashu said.

“There has always been a problem of change in shops since we adopted the multi-currency system in 2018 because we have no smaller denomination in United States dollars.”

He, however, said there was no justification for retailers to refuse giving change to their customers.

“It is theft and it is illegal for a retail shop to refuse to give change to consumers,” he said.

In May this year, government put in place a raft measures to curb the further depreciation of the local currency and increases in domestic currency for prices to control liquidity on the market.

Government measures included promotion of use of domestic currency by its agencies which further increased the demand for the local currency.

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