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Thousands of complaints lodged against ‘Zero VAT’

Some food products have become more expensive since ‘Zero VAT’ measure was implemented

The government’s ‘Zero VAT’ measure, which in April reduced the VAT charged on food products considered “essential” to 0%, has been the subject of thousands of complaints on Portugal’s Portal da Queixa (Complaints Portal).

“In effect for five months, the VAT exemption on the essential food basket still fails to convince the Portuguese people”, the portal says in a statement to the press.

“Consumers complain about the rising prices of foods included in the basket, the irregularity of the prices being charged, and the poor perception of discounts in stores. Hypermarkets lead in terms of complaints. Currently, vegetables, fish, fruit, and olive oil are the most complained-about products,” it adds.

On the Complaints Portal, from April 18 (the date the measure came into effect) to September 18, thousands of complaints related to the rising cost of living were registered, representing a 22.7% increase compared to the same period last year. More than 40% of these complaints specifically denounce issues related to the zero VAT measure.

“It is a fact that the measure does not have the same impact on all foods. While some have decreased in price as expected, others are even more expensive than before the government’s decision,” said Pedro Lourenço, founder of Portal da Queixa and CEO of Consumers Trust.

“Unfortunately, the price increases observed in some essential products of the zero VAT hamper show that this measure was full of intentions and lacking in success, with consumers publicly expressing their indignation and revolt. As far as we are concerned, we will continue to pay attention to these cases of dissatisfaction, to analyse the sharing of consumers’ opinions in Portugal, and to transparently disseminate the experience with a measure that will undoubtedly continue to generate numerous complaints,” he added.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s Food and Safety Authority (ASAE) has launched 58 criminal proceedings against establishments for failing to implement the measure, reports Jornal de Negócios.

Most of the infractions (65%) happened in grocery stores and smaller-scale retail businesses.

By Michael Bruxo

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