Sunday shopping reform suspended

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Norway’s conservative coalition government is giving up its efforts, at least during this parliamentary period, to reform the country’s laws that severely restrict shopping on Sundays. A new government commission, however, will evaluate regulations for shopping both in stores and online, and make reform recommendations.

Kiwi grocery stores have been among those trying to find ways around Norway's overall ban on Sunday shopping. Now reform of current laws has been suspended. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Kiwi grocery stores have been among those trying to find ways around Norway’s overall ban on Sunday shopping. Now reform of current laws has been suspended. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Government Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland of the Conservative Party confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday that the existing, controversial restrictions on Sunday shopping will remain in place. They only allow gardening retailers, small stores of less than 100 meters and stores located at key transportation or tourist hubs to open for Sunday shopping. There are also some seasonal exceptions to the general ban on Sunday shopping: All retailers are allowed to open for business on the three Sundays before Christmas and grocery stores are allowed to open on Sundays in popular summer tourist towns.

The government had been keen to streamline retailing regulations and eliminate many of the loopholes that have allowed various attempts to get around the law. Both the Conservatives and their government partner, the Progress Party, cited not only consumer demand for Sunday shopping but also the new jobs it could create, especially for students and other young people willing to work on weekends.

Their proposals met massive resistance from one of their own government support partners, the Christian Democrats, though, and most other parties in Parliament were also opposed to opening up shopping centers on Sundays. The government’s other support partner, the Liberal Party, had campaigned on a platform of liberalizing the Sunday shopping regulations, but ended up changing its mind and was only willing to allow local municipalities to decide for themselves whether local stores could open on Sundays. That left the Solberg government without a majority in Parliament for removal of the overall ban on shopping nationwide.

“For the Conservatives and the Progress Party, this is still an important issue,” Helleland told NRK on Friday. “But we see that small adjustments that had won some support aren’t enough.”

Helleland said the government now wants more information and “a better foundation of knowledge before we propose more reforms. We think it’s correct to evaluate the current law and get some recommendations.”

They are now expected in the fall of 2017, after the next national election. The commission will be headed by the former head of Oslo’s Conservative city government, Erling Lae.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund