Železná Street is just a few steps from Old Town Square, a destination every tourist has been to on their visit to Prague. There's a large sign at the beginning of the street: 'Change'. The conversion from EUR to CZK is 25.18, which is quite common. But it has a catch. A 28% charge is also required for the transaction.
Fast forward about three minutes later, on the other side of the Old Town Square, the same conversion can be exchanged at the exchange rate of 25.20. Free of charge.
The high fee is aimed at tourists - the exchange office in Železná when converting from CZK to foreign currencies - charges a fee of only 2.7 per cent. The second common trick in fooling tourists is luring them with a low rate. For one euro, some exchange offices offer 16 or 18CZK.
The Czech political party, The Pirates focused on such exchanges after signing a coalition agreement with the United Force for Prague and PRAHA SOBĚ in November and took over the city's leadership. Since then, they have managed to close two exchange offices - one at the Main Station, the other in the subway station of Náměstí Republiky.
Železná Street is due to be discussed by the Prague Councillor at the next meeting.
The dishonest exchange office is addressed by Magdalena Valdmanová, a member of the Pirates and the Counselor of Mayor Zdeněk Hřib. Valdman points out that it does not pertain to all the currency exchange bureaus but tries to focus on the dishonest ones. "This is a measure of honesty for me. When I come as a tourist, I see how much I'm charged. The exchange office is not wrong. But it is bad to lie to people."
These include branches such as, Lumex, Pemex Change, Chivas Invest or Commodimex. The exchange offices of these companies can be found in the underground vestibule, but also elsewhere in Prague. They often offer an extremely low exchange rate of around 16 to 18CZK per Euro.
In addition to the two already abolished, the mayor's counsellor has already identified with nine allegedly dishonest exchange offices. "It is a statement of a clear attitude from the city that Prague will not benefit from the swindling of tourists, and the dishonest practices of some people working in the tourist environment," Mayor Hřib said in a telephone interview with iROZHLAS.cz
Due to complicated contractual relationships, Valdmanová does not want to estimate in advance how many exchanges will actually be closed. The City Trade Company Prague (TCP), through which Prague rents some premises, has prepared a revision of the contracts for the capital. "The capital city has made a revision of the contractual relations concluded by the City Center of Trade Center Prague and has instructed to terminate selected lease agreements, the purpose of which is the establishment of an exchange office and the sale of souvenirs," city councillor Chabr said.
According to ČTK's information, two exchange offices at Národní třída and one in Jungmannova Street could be shut down. Altogether, the city estimates 14 exchange offices could be shut down. Nine of them are located on the premises administered by the TCP, five on the premises directly addressed by the municipality.
But, as councillor Chabr said, the criterion is not just whether they are dishonest but also the profitability: "We are tackling exchange bureaus that have a problematic reputation, that's the first thing, and the second, the exchange office where there is not enough economic yield. Then there are exchange offices that are fair and at the same time have a relatively good yield component, which is also an example of an exchange office near Wenceslas Square."
Author: Lilato Madiri
Photo: Michaela Danelová