City canceling exchange office leases

Five offices in city-owned property will cease to operate

The Prague City Council approved the expiration of leases for five exchange offices in the city’s historic center.

The city does not need a reason to terminate the leases. A notice period of three months is required.

One stated reason, though, is low level of rent, which makes the leases disadvantageous for the city.

The new City Hall administration is also against shops offering unfavorable exchange rates. City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague) has previously said Prague wants to adjust leases so that currency exchanges and stores that sell inappropriate souvenirs do not damage the city’s reputation.

The leases in question are for exchanges on Panská and Rytířská Streets, Můstek and Wenceslas Square.

The highest rent is paid by the exchange operator at Můstek, about Kč 38,700 per square meter per year, or Kč 3,225 per square meter per month.

The location is adjacent to Na Příkopě, which is the most expensive street in Prague for rents, and 19th most expensive in the world, according to consultancy Cushman & Wakefield.

The average monthly rent per square meter in Na Příkopě street amounts to 230 euros, or just under Kč 6,000, according to the recent Cushman & Wakefield report.

The ruling coalition in City Hall is also preparing a complete analysis of its premises in the city center and the is preparing new lease conditions.

“In the buildings that are in the historic center, we would like to have two criteria: the purpose of the future operation and the highest price. These will always be the most important, but not the only criteria,” Chabr said.

The city is not seeking to terminate all contracts, but only those economically disadvantageous or damaging to the city’s reputation.

Getting rid of unfair exchange offices was a campaign issue for the Pirate Party. Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) is hoping to follow up on that promise. “It is a statement of the clear position on the part of the city that Prague will not benefit from the swindling of tourists and the dishonest practices of some people operating in the tourist environment,” Hřib told Czech Radio.

According to the Czech Radio report, the City Council has identified nine exchange offices with disadvantageous rates, hidden fees or confusing signs.

Interest in cleaning up exchange places came to media attention with a group of video reports by Janek Rubeš, who posts videos as the Honest Guide. These resulted eventually in an exchange place on Old Town Square that gave a particularly bad rate being closed.

The location will soon reopen as a coffee shop.

The efforts by the city to close particular exchange offices comes on top of new nationwide legislation that will enter into effect April 1. The new law will give people an opportunity to cancel an exchange within three hours if they find it was not to their advantage. There will be a limit on the eligible amount to prevent currency speculation.

Information on the right to cancel the transaction will be printed on the receipt from the exchange office. The receipt will also have to include the website of the Czech National Bank, which will provide information on customer rights.

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