Some businesses are charging as much as 50 percent over average prices, says consumer rights' association Codacons, which says it has received dozens of complaints since shops, cafés, restaurants and beauty salons began reopening on May 18th.
Some customers have reported seeing cafés charge €2 for an espresso in central Milan – nearly 54 percent more than the city's average pre-lockdown price of €1.30, said Codacons, which did not say how many businesses it had received complaints about.
In Rome, where a coffee costs €1.10 on average, café-goers complained about paying €1.50, while in Florence (average price: €1.40), they reported paying €1.70.
Hairdressers have also been charging more for their services, according to Codacons, which says that consumers have reported seeing prices rise by around 25 percent on average.
“We hope these are just isolated cases, and that business owners are not deciding en masse to revise their price lists in order to recoup lost earnings and extra cleaning costs,” said the association's president Carlo Rienzi, who invited consumers to report any price hikes to the watchdog.
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
Cafés and hairdressers, along with restaurants, bars, beauty salons and most shops, were forced to stay shuttered for more than two months during Italy's coronavirus lockdown.
Since reopening they are operating at reduced capacity due to social distancing guidelines that require staff and customers to remain at least a metre apart. They are also shouldering the cost of personal protective equipment for staff, as well as adapting to rigorous cleaning requirements and other safety measures.
Business owners had warned that they would struggle to survive the closure, prompting the government to speed up its reopening plans.
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Not all of the roughly 800,000 businesses eligible to reopen on Monday were back in business, according to Italian catering industry group FIPE, which reported that only 70 percent of cafés, bars and restaurants were open and 40 percent of their staff – some 400,000 people – remained off work.
While retail associations reported that shops had better opening rates, business is likely to remain tough for Italian enterprises of all kinds as unemployment spikes, spending power plummets and tourists stay home.
The government has released emergency payments and allowed business owners to delay paying commercial rents and some taxes during the shutdown – but many owners have said this won't be enough to keep them afloat.