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EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

Inflation is rising faster in Germany than at any point since 1993. We explain what that means for the price of certain items.

A woman takes butter off a shelf in a German supermarket.
A woman takes butter off a shelf in a German supermarket. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Oliver Berg

Germany’s Federal Statistics Office announced last week that average inflation went up 3.1 percent in 2021 – the highest increase since 1993. And if we look at December 2021 compared to December 2020, there’s been an even sharper spike of 5.3 percent.

That’s a lot higher than the European Central Bank’s inflation target of around 2 percent, although experts say consumer prices should level out again. But what does it all mean for what you might pay at the grocery store, for your energy bills, or for new furniture and electronics?

READ ALSO: Inflation in Germany hits highest rate since 1992

A new analysis by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) sheds some light on how prices have changed in recent years. 

To begin with, the Destatis agency uses a hypothetical “basket” of goods based on what the average German household purchases, and compares how the prices of all those items put together change over time to come up with its figure.

That means if you don’t drive your own car, for example, you won’t experience the same inflation yourself that another household in Germany might, since Destatis includes petrol prices in its inflation calculation.

You can use the Destatis Personal Inflation Calculator yourself to see exactly how much more you can expect to pay. Below are a few general highlights from the price index.

Supermarket bills see big increases

Using 2015 as a base, certain grocery products saw particularly clear increases when individual measurements were last taken at the end of November 2021.

Butter tops the bunch with a 57.1 percent spike in price in the last six years. Whole milk, sliced cheese, and fresh bread rolls also saw increases – at 26.5 percent, 12.1 percent, and 15.2 percent respectively.

READ ALSO: Why everything is suddenly getting so expensive in Germany

A shopper holds a trolley at a Berlin supermarket.
A shopper holds a trolley at a Berlin supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Getting around costs more

Those who primarily or exclusively use public transport in Germany are getting hit considerably less with price increases than those who have to fill up their own vehicles regularly.

But fuel costs have hit public transport riders as well, who are paying just over 13 percent more now than they were in 2015.

Supergrade petrol has seen a 26 percent increase though, and diesel has spiked by 35 percent.

Heating and powering your home

The most volatile price fluctuations recently are in the price of heating oil. After decreasing by over 30 percent in 2020 relative to 2015 prices, it is now 47 percent more costly to heat your home in Germany now than it was six years ago. Electricity is also up about 12 percent.

READ ALSO: Households in Germany to get some relief on electricity bills

A radiator in a German home.
The cost of energy bills have skyrocketed in recent months. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

Recreation and eating out

Unsurprisingly, going out for either a drink or a bite to eat has also gone up in price, but fairly uniformly across the board.

Whether getting a drink at a bar, a kebab, a Fischbrötchen or Currywurst after a late night out, or enjoying sit-down meal at a restaurant – prices for all these forms of going out have gone up by roughly the same amount – 17-19 percent – compared to 2015 rates.

Heading out to see a movie costs about 11 percent more than it did six years ago.

A person holds Fischbrötchen in Schleswig-Holstein.
A person holds Fischbrötchen in Schleswig-Holstein. Eating out costs more in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Annette Frühauf

Electronics – where the savings are

The one notable exception to the upward trend in German consumer prices is in electronics, which are considerably more affordable now than they were in 2015.

A new mobile phone without a contract is 28 percent less expensive, while a new television set has dropped in price by a third.

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Why are card payments getting rejected in Germany?

People are currently unable to pay by card in a number of major German retailers. Here's what's going on.

Why are card payments getting rejected in Germany?

Since Tuesday, numerous retailers in Germany have been operating under a cash-only policy after a major brand of card payments terminal stopped processing payments.

The problem was initially announced by the Konsum retail chain in Dresden, who wrote on Facebook on Tuesday morning: “Attention, an important notice for you! Due to a Germany-wide malfunction, card payments are currently not possible in our stores.”

According to the latest information from Focus Online, several branches of Netto, Edeka and a handful of Rewe branches are affected by the issues. There have also been reports of problems at Aldi Nord, Rossmann and DM as well as some smaller, independent retailers and petrol stations.

People who have tried to pay by credit card, debit card or EC card at these places have reportedly been turned away. 

What’s going on?

The problems with card payments seem to be linked to a commonly used card payments terminal from US company Verifone. According to reports, H5000 card machines at multiple retailers and businesses experienced a software malfunction that stopped them processing payments. 

“As things stand, it will be necessary to install new software updates on all H5000 terminals, which the manufacturer will provide as soon as possible,” the payment service provider Payone said.

“The disruptions are ongoing,” a spokesperson for financial services provider Concardis said on Thursday afternoon. “We’re still waiting for updates from Verifone.”

As of Friday morning, there was no indication of when the problems would be solved, but the card payments processor appeared to be working on a solution.

“We will soon provide a software update for our customers to fix the problem and will inform our customers as soon as it is available,” a Verifone spokesperson said. 

READ ALSO: How Germany’s EC card is set to go digital

How widespread is the problem? 

According to Verifone, thousands of card machines at different retailers, petrol stations and banks across the country are affected. The H5000 terminal is mainly used in Germany, they added. 

However, the Association of German Banks clarified that, though the H5000 terminals were completely out of action, this specific model only accounts for a small proportion of all card machines in Germany. 

“Network operators and technical service providers are working intensively on troubleshooting,” it continued.

Payments processing service Payone confirmed that it was facing issues with the specific H5000 card machine and said that the issues were happening throughout the country. 

“Like other network operators, we are currently experiencing considerable restrictions in the processing of transactions with card payment terminals of the type H5000 from the manufacturer Verifone throughout Germany,” Payone said on Wednesday. 

Financial service provider Concardis warned businesses not to try and fix the problem themselves by rebooting the devices since the card machines needed to be connected to the network in order for the problem to be solved by the manufacturer. 

He said Payone and Concardis were in contact with Verifone and were working to fix the problem.

What should customers do? 

Since card payments may not be possible, it’s a good idea for people to make sure they have cash on them when they go to the supermarket or petrol station in the near future. 

ATMs are apparently unaffected by the problems, so people should still be able to get access to cash. 

Customers are also being advised to clarify in advance at the checkout whether card payments are possible or not – preferably before picking out items.

If card payments aren’t possible, supermarkets and other shops are likely to put up signs at entrances or near the tills, so customers should keep an eye out for those. Petrol stations generally put stickers and signs directly on the pumps when equipment is out of order. 

If customers get caught out with no cash at a retailer where no card payments can be processed, they will generally have to leave the items behind – though some cashiers will be willing to hold the items for when the customers return. 

Things can get trickier at petrol stations, where identity cards, driving licences and health insurance cards can be retained in the event that somebody fills up their tank and is unable to pay straight away.

In some cases, the police can even be called.

READ ALSO: What to know about starting your personal banking in Germany