Representatives of the ruling party Fidesz and its small satellite partner Christian Democrats voted this Tuesday to prohibit large-size retail shops from opening on Sundays. No impact study has preceded the ban that is believed to be leading to layoffs.
The prohibition is take effect on March 15, 2015. Trade organizations and two opposition parties have called for a referendum on the issue and give people the freedom to choose when they wish to go shopping.
The controversial Sunday shopping ban was initiated by the Christian Democrats, the junior partner in the governing coalition and later endorsed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. As the financial website portfolio remarks, no impact studies are known as the government has not released any such information.
The website recalls the previous debate of a bill concerning free Sundays, in 2010-2011. At that time, Fidesz mentioned an unpublished Economy Ministry impact study as the rationale for not endorsing the proposal.
According to the new law, stores will have to keep closed on Sundays, except those with retail space not exceeding 200 square meters, provided that Sunday staff is a business owner with a stake of at least 20% in the store or a family member.
Other exceptions to the rule are tobacconists; pharmacies; retail units at airports, train stations, prisons or hospitals; farmers' markets; petrol stations; stores on military precincts. Business hours will be limited to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., another move that will hurt round-the-clock big box stores.
All retail units are allowed to keep open on the four Sundays preceding Christmas, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and one more additional Sunday of the year as chosen by the owner. Bakeries are allowed to keep open from 5 a.m. to noon on Sundays and other days of rest, and from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on other days.
The law authorizes the government to regulate retail opening times individually depending on the specific local environment (tourism, shopping habits, number of employees, local residents) and lay down those rules in local regulations, a clause that critics say could lead to favoritism.
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