Belgium ends supermarket discounts ban

People queue in front of a supermarket in Drogenbos, Belgium, 18 March 2020. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

Belgium will end a two-week ban on supermarket promotions and discounts designed to discourage panic-buying after complaints that consumers were facing higher prices at a time of economic hardship due to the coronavirus.

Belgians, like many consumers in other countries, stocked up after social distancing measures were announced, clearing shelves of staples such as pasta and toilet paper, prompting the sales and discounting ban to come into place on 18 March.

The ban was designed to stop further hoarding and people rushing to stores to take advantage of promotions advertised in weekly fliers.

Former economy minister Vincent Van Quickenborne took to twitter on Saturday to point out that many items of his shopping had increased in price from two weeks earlier and to urge an end to the discounting ban.

Others showed circulated examples, such as that a packet of chips from one store was 29% more expensive, although shops have not hiked prices, rather just ended special sales.

The law change to allow discounting will enter force on Monday or Tuesday, a spokesman for economy and consumer affairs minister Nathalie Muylle said.

Belgian chain Colruyt said it would go ahead with promotions already planned for the coming weeks, but would watch out for future hoarding. Some stores have limits on bulk buying – such as no more than two packets of toilet paper per customer.

Similar rules apply at competitors Carrefour, Delhaize and discounters Aldi and Lidl.

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