GRTU has on numerous occasions voiced its concerns and objections on how the scheme is currently being administered. The GRTU would like to remind that it is the retailers who are paying for the current smart card system through the 2% overhead charged on every Smart Card transaction. We firmly believe that at a charge of 2% of the total sale, the scheme should have ample funds to be able to offer a sterling service.
GRTU has always been in favour of having an official database of products that are eligible to be paid with smart card. A list would provide both the students and the retailers with further clarity and avoid misuse. The retailer requires clear information also in order to be able to guide his employees as currently the owner has to trust the judgment of his sales persons and risk errors which could prove costly. We need a clear list, we cannot rely on judgement. It is not always clear whether an item can be classified as educational or not. We feel that compiling a database and adding products to the list as the need arises is not an impossible task.
GRTU is also in favour of changes to the composition of the SMGB board which should include representatives of the retail trade, students and Government officials. Presently the board is composed solely of Government officials. This board not only administers the SMGB system but is also Judge and Jury in cases where inappropriate use of Smart Cards is suspected. The GRTU feels that Government officials might not possess the sufficient technical knowledge some goods might require, which we see as essential in order to be able to make a fair judgement.
In addition to this, having a Government administered scheme run on a transaction cost which is a percentage and not a flat rate charge is no longer acceptable. The transaction cost does not go up and down according to the product price. The transaction cost is a flat rate cost. While the EU is fighting banks on this issue Government is still enacting the same system itself.
GRTU therefore calls for the 2% charge to be converted to a flat fee based on a per transaction system. It does not take longer or cost more for the Smart Card system to process a transaction of €400 instead of one of €10. On a €400 transaction, a retailer pays a staggering €8. It would be cheaper to deliver the money by hand to the SMGB Board!
GRTU has already written to Hon Dolores Christina in this regard. GRTU is presently awaiting a reply.