Fresh money troubles for Italy as outdated vending machines spit out 90% of new ‘anti-forgery’ €5 notes
In the grip of its longest recession and battling problems from soaring youth unemployment to bank credit stagnation, the eurozone has more than enough to worry about as it is.
But now there are reports of a fresh and rather more basic challenge to the single currency: in Italy, people are having trouble using its newest note to make some payments.
Brought into circulation on 2 May, the new €5 note was praised for its enhanced security features, which the European Central Bank (ECB) said would help combat forgery. The other denominations in the Europa series of notes will be introduced over the next few years.
However, in Italy, the new note is reportedly being rejected by many vending machines whose software is not up-to-date enough to recognise it. An experiment carried out in 10 cities by the daily newspaper La Repubblica found that, in 90% of cases, the notes were returned to the customer. The goods affected included tickets for local transport and car parks, cigarettes and petrol.
The ECB said it was aware that there were some problems with the transition period, but said the figures quoted in La Repubblica should be taken “with great care”. The change had been announced in November, it added, and it had worked since then with banknote equipment manufacturers to prepare the ground.
Introducing the second-generation note earlier this year, the ECB explained that it bore the portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology, and was more durable due to a different coating. The old €5 note will continue for a while to circulate alongside its successor before eventually being withdrawn.