In 2011, I requested that the Central Bank examine ways to improve Ireland’s payment infrastructure. The Central Bank established a Steering Committee which prepared and submitted the National Payments Plan to me. Government subsequently approved the plan in April 2013. The National Payments Plan will target improving consumer payments systems and increasing the efficiency of the use of cash amongst other things. The National Payments Plan could result in savings of up to €1 billion per annum in the economy. The National Payments Plan makes a recommendation surrounding the use of one and two cent coins in Ireland. There is evidence that one and two cent coins are not actively used by consumers. It is expensive to continually mint and re-issue new coins. The National Payments Plan does not envisage abandoning these coins; they would remain legal tender.
The Steering Committee intends to trial the use of a rounding convention in a pilot project. The rounding convention that will be trialled in the pilot is entirely voluntary on the part of both consumers and retailers. The location for the pilot project has not yet been identified. I am advised that it will be chosen on the basis of objective criteria i.e. of sufficient size and representative of Ireland’s population. The pilot is expected to run in August/September of 2013 and to finish by November 2013. A report on the basis of the pilot project will be submitted to and reviewed by the Steering Committee, which will subsequently report to Government through my Department. A Government decision informed by that report will follow.
A change in the legal tender status of these coins requires action at EU level. Consideration of this issue is currently ongoing at EU level. On 14 May the Commission issued a communication to the European Parliament and Council relating to the continued issuance of the one and two cent coins.