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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

02/12/2007
TOKYO -- FamilyMart, parent company of the Famima!! chain of U.S. convenience stores, is testing registers that instantly calculate the total cost of a purchase, without needing to take products out of a basket, reported Planet Retail.

Currently, two of its Tokyo-based stores are testing the registers, which calculate totals based on IC-tagged products. During the 10 day trial in the city's Ikebukuro district, customers can save time by placing their basket of IC-tagged goods on a register and make instant payments using cash, credit cards, or East Japan Railway's Suica electronic train fare card, the report stated.

IC tags, which wirelessly transmit product information and prices to devices able to pick up the signal, were placed on 800 items including beverages and sandwiches at the stores.

The trial is part of a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's test of the IC tags.

In other international news, Italian drivers lined up at the pump last week to prepare for a strike by gas station operators that are protesting the government's ruling to increase competition by allowing supermarkets to sell gasoline, Bloomberg News reported.

"There was already a line at 6:30 this morning when I arrived," said Ulderico Grassetti, operator of an ERG SpA gas station in Rome. By 10:30 a.m., his tanks were near empty he said.

Unions that represent gas stations called for a 14-day strike when the government released a number of measures on Jan. 25 that will reduce costs to consumers and increase efficiency. One of the measures permits supermarkets to sell gasoline, eliminates the limits on minimum distances between service stations and extends operating hours, the report stated. An Italian consumer group said that these measures will allow consumers to save between 60 to 100 euros a year.

The strike targets the government, not motorists, according to Franco Bertini, chairman of Faib, an association that represents the country's 23,000 gas stations, the report stated.

Gas station operators held talks with the Italian Industry Minister Pierluigi Bersani last week, but were inconclusive. The strike was scheduled to end on Feb. 9, but as of press time, it was still in effect.

At least one Italian did not mind waiting in line. "I really like it. No, I love it, because I get to meet tons of people," said Alfredo Panini, a hotel worker, as he pointed to a young woman in front of him in line at the Shell station in Rome.