Changes to Payment Processing Over the Weekend Led to Overcharges

digital payment iceland online banking

Updates to digital payment systems caused confusion over the weekend, when some consumers in Iceland were charged excessive amounts for some everyday purchases.

On Saturday, April 15, Íslandsbanki sent out a message to its customers in advance of the change, stating: “This weekend, there will be a global standard change implemented by payment processors that involves the removal of decimal points from Icelandic Króna currency. As a result, Mastercard will be removing decimal points from its transactions starting tomorrow, Saturday, April 15th at 7:05 PM.  Customers of our bank may be alerted to incorrect amounts when making purchases in Icelandic currency during that time, if payment processors do not update their settlements in a timely manner.”

Íslandsbanki warned customer to refrain from making certain purchases if they were uncertain of the charge. However, some Icelanders were unpleasantly surprised on their banking statements, as Morgunblaðið notes.

Among some of the charges include one Icelander who reportedly was charged 176,000 ISK [$1,290, €1,175] at Bæjarins Beztu, a popular hotdog stand, and an Icelander who was charged 642,600 ISK [$4,715, €4,293] for a grocery trip.

Regarding such charges, Íslandsbank stated: “If customers continue with their purchase and are charged the wrong amount, they should wait until the transaction has been settled and then contact the seller for a correction, or submit a refund request to Íslandsbanki.”

Online payment service Paypal likewise suspended ISK transactions between April 14 and 18.

Those experiencing problems with their banking are advised to contact their bank directly.

What’s in a Name: Forestry and Soil Conservation Agencies Debate New Title

forestry

The Environment and Transport Committee of Iceland’s parliament has received a proposal for a new law on forestry and land conservation, which aims to merge the two existing agencies, the Land Conservation Agency and the Forestry Service.

The proposal identifies key issues of the merger between the two agencies. The plan, called “Land and Life,” was created by the Land Conservation Agency and the Forestry Service and outlines their vision for land and forest management through 2031.

Read more: Use of Lodgepole Pine Sparks Feud

The new organization, named “Land and Forest,” has been proposed as the name for the merged agency. However, the Land Conservation Agency has suggested that a better name might be found, given that the proposed name does not reflect the activities of the two agencies.

In a statement, the Soil Conservation Agency noted the need for a “more suitable name” for the new institution. Alternatives proposed include “Land and Life,” “Institute of Land Resources,” and “Earth.”

Read more: First-Ever Joint Policy on Land Reclamation and Reforestation

The existing law on land conservation will still apply, and the merger will not change any ongoing work or projects. The proposed new law identifies the significant benefits of the merger, including streamlined operations and increased efficiency. However, the new organization will have a broader mandate and be better equipped to manage the country’s natural resources effectively.

Charges Dropped Against Footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson

Footballer

Icelandic footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson will not be charged with a criminal offence and has been cleared of all charges, the football website fotbolti.net reports. An investigation team collaborating with the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that the available evidence does “not reach the threshold set out on the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

Charges dropped after a near two-year investigation

A statement from the police in Manchester, published in an article on Fotbolti.net today, reveals that the former Everton midfielder and captain of the Icelandic football team Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson will face “no further action.” Gylfi was arrested in July 2021 on suspicion of sexual offences against a minor. He was released on bail shortly after his arrest but has not played a professional football match since then.

The investigation into the case was finally completed last January, which was when the police handed over the results of its investigation to the Office of the Crown Prosecutor in the UK. As previously noted, it was up to the prosecutor’s office to determine the next steps, i.e. whether charges would be filed in the case or whether they would be dropped. The decision has now been made to drop the case after almost two years. Iceland Review received a copy of the original statement from fotbolti.net:

“The 33-year-old man who was arrested in connection with an investigation opened in June 2021 will face no further action. The investigation team and Crown Prosecution Service have been working together and reached the decision that the evidence available at this time does not reach the threshold set out on (sic) the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Greater Manchester Police is committed to investigating allegations to secure the best possible outcomes for all involved and will continue to work with partner agencies to ensure individuals are supported throughout investigations and beyond.”

Gylfi Þór was removed from the active roster for the Premier League team Everton and his contract was not renewed when it expired last summer. Gylfi has not played with the Icelandic Men’s National Team since his arrest. He has also been subject to a travel ban, which has prevented him from leaving the UK since his arrest.

This article will be updated.

Body Discovered Near Borgarnes, Investigation Underway

police station Hlemmur

A body was discovered on a beach not far from the town of Borgarnes, in West Iceland, yesterday, Vísir reports. The police will update the media as soon as more information is available.

An investigation underway

Yesterday evening, a passerby reported the discovery of a body to the police. According to the police authorities, the case is under investigation.

“We are looking into this discovery and awaiting results. When more information is available, we will begin by speaking to relatives,” Ásmundur Kristinn Ásmundsson, Assistant Chief of Police in West Iceland told Vísir.

Ásmundur stated that it was necessary to follow all legal procedures and to attain conclusive results regarding the person’s identity. The police will update the media as soon as the results of the investigation are available.

Global Price Reductions Must Be Passed on to Icelandic Consumers

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

The Minister of Culture and Business Affairs has encouraged Icelandic petrol companies to do their part in the effort to curb inflation. The minister calls for the reduction in the price of fuel on the global market to be passed on to Icelandic consumers, RÚV reports.

More competition needed

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, maintains that it is urgent that the Icelandic petrol companies take part in the fight against inflation – and return price reductions on the global market to Icelandic consumers. According to the minister, the companies have not provided adequate explanations for price differences in Iceland and Denmark.

“The global inflation rate is falling because oil and energy prices are falling globally. And we demand similar price reductions in Iceland,” Lilja stated in an interview with RÚV. The minister pointed out, by gesturing towards data from the Competition Authority [and basic economic principles], that when the competition has increased, prices have fallen.

“Which tells us that vigorous competition is important. It must also be said that when you look at prices in Iceland and Denmark, the difference, in my opinion, is too great for the petrol companies to explain,” Lilja added. She encouraged petrol companies to participate in the fight against inflation.

“What I think is most important is that the price reduction that is taking place on the global market is passed on to Icelandic consumers. The ministry has been looking into this market, and the same hold for the Competition Authority, and we will, of course, continue to monitor this market. But I think it is very urgent that the petrol companies take this to heart,” Lilja concluded.

CEO of Skeljungur denies that prices have been kept high

In an interview yesterday, the Director of the Competition Authority (Sammkeppnisstofnun) argued that greater competition in Iceland would translate into lower petrol prices. The CEO of Skeljungur, Þórður Guðjónsson, denied the claim that the petrol companies have been keeping prices unreasonably high:

“Iceland is not a big country,” Þórður told RÚV, “and I think it’s certainly inaccurate to speak of a kind of multi-competition, which is the antonym of oligopoly. There are four companies that import petrol in Iceland. There are five companies that sell petrol at their gas stations. So I think there is a decent competition there.”

When asked if the companies were still keeping the prices abnormally high, Þórður responded in the negative: “No, I wouldn’t say so.”

As noted by RÚV, the companies that import petrol to Iceland are Skeljungur, N1, Olís, and Atlantsolía. Þórður stated that it was unfair to compare price trends of petrol in Iceland with global market prices for crude oil as there are no oil refineries in Iceland:

“No one imports crude oil into Iceland, for there are no oil refineries in Iceland. We need to import refined petroleum products. These petroleum products come from Norway – from Mongstad in Norway – where Equinor is the only supplier in Iceland; it has a pretty good hold on the country. There is no possibility for us, the petrol companies, to get oil from anywhere else. All of us have to buy separately, as competition does not allow joint purchases of fuel, which would strengthen our position in the importation of fuel.”

As to Lilja’s point about price differences between Iceland and Denmark, Guðjón gestured towards the fact that there are oil refineries in Denmark, which allows Denmark to purchase crude oil.

Child Support Collection Centre Fined for Gendered Pay Discrimination

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The Child Support Collection Centre, a public agency responsible for collecting child support payments from parents, has been under scrutiny for its management practices for years, RÚV reports.

Last week, the municipality collection agency in Iceland was ordered to pay a woman ISK 19 million [$140,000, €127,000] in compensation for significant gender-based wage discrimination. This was confirmed by Aldís Hilmarsdóttir, the agency’s chairperson. Over a 40-month period, the agency paid the woman almost ISK 500,000 less in monthly wages than a male colleague in a comparable position, without any legitimate reason. Of the total compensation, ISK 18 million was for wage discrimination and ISK 1 million for damages.

Recently, the agency has undergone a significant overhaul, with staff being fired, former executives being investigated by the prosecutor’s office, searches and arrests being made, and the Icelandic National Audit Office recommending significant changes to its operations. The agency has approximately 20 employees working in Reykjavik and Ísafjörður.

Since its establishment over a century ago, the Child Support Collection Centre’s main purpose has been to collect child support payments from parents, primarily fathers. The Icelandic National Audit Office and others have recommended that this function be transferred to the state, stating that it is unnecessary to maintain an entire agency with a large number of employees solely to collect child support. In addition to this issue, the management practices of the centre have also been questioned.

An audit of the agency’s operations was requested by the government as part of a restructuring of child support collection. The investigation uncovered several irregularities, including financial mismanagement, lack of proper accounting, and inadequate record-keeping. The audit also revealed that the centre’s revenues come primarily from late payment fees, with almost 80% of its income being derived from such fees. The agency suffered losses of ISK 100 million [$740,000, €670,000] in 2021 and ISK 120 million in 2020, despite its revenues being around ISK 270 million in 2021.

It remains to be seen how the government will respond to these recommendations and whether the agency’s operations will be transferred to the state.

 

Icelandic Man Arrested in Brazil in Large Drug Bust

Metropolitan Police

Vísir reports that a man has been arrested in Brazil by the Brazilian authorities in a joint operation with the Icelandic police. The man in question is believed to be Sverrir Þór Gunnarsson, also known as Sveddi Tönn, who has a long history of drug-related offences in Iceland, Spain, and Brazil.

The operation was carried out due to concerns about the flow of drugs from Brazil to Europe and Iceland, which is believed to be linked to a group associated with Sverrir. The Icelandic police have been cooperating with the Brazilian authorities for some time in connection with this case.

Sverrir Þór Gunnarsson was born in 1972 and has a criminal record that started when he was sixteen. He was first convicted of minor drug and traffic offences and was given the nickname Sveddi Tönn because of his appearance, supposedly resembling a tooth. In 2000, Sverrir was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his involvement in a large-scale drug trafficking case known as “The Big Drug Case.” Thirteen people were convicted, and Sverrir received the second heaviest sentence.

In November 2012, Sverrir was sentenced to 22 years in prison in Brazil for organizing the smuggling of around fifty thousand ecstasy tablets. He was released from prison in Brazil but was put under house arrest. Later, he fled Brazil and was on the run until his recent arrest.

The Brazilian police have announced that the operation was part of a large-scale crackdown on organized crime groups involved in money laundering and drug trafficking. Around 250 police officers were involved in the operation, which targeted 49 locations, resulting in 33 arrests.

The police are reported to have seized 65 kg of cocaine and 225 kg of cannabis in the operation.

Power Outage in Downtown Reykjavík

power outage downtown reykjavík

Parts of downtown Reykjavík were without power this morning due to a high-voltage failure.

According to utility company Veitur, work began on the power outage around 9:10 this morning. The outage is reported to have occurred around 8:00.

Some downtown businesses were affected, needing to open later because of the outages.

Veitur states that as of 10:05, power has been restored in all areas of downtown Reykjavík.

“Good Spring Weather” Ahead Following Historically Cold March

According to long-term forecasts, this April could be one of the warmest on record. A meteorologist has told Vísir that warm air is expected over the country after the weekend, with “good spring weather” anticipated around the first day of summer.

A quick transition from the coldest March in 44 years

Temperatures have remained above average this month, marking a quick transition from the coldest March on record in 44 years. April could also become historic, albeit for happier reasons, according to meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson who expects good spring weather next week.

“A predicted high-pressure area over the British Isles, along with milder air from the southeast, is expected to bring very mild weather in the coming week, potentially around the first day of summer,” Einar, who also forecasts the weather on the website Blika.is, told Vísir.

According to the Norwegian Meteorological Agency’s long-term forecast, temperatures could reach double digits next week. Einar preferred to remain grounded: “A temperature range between 5-9°C is considered good for the month of April – and if one can feel the warmth of the sun during this time,” Einar noted. He warned that if the trend of warm weather continues, April could be considered an extreme weather month, similar to April 2019, provided there are no sudden changes in the last week.

April 2019 was the warmest in many parts of the country since the beginning of measurements; the average temperature in Reykjavík was 6.5°C. Einar told Vísir that it was, however, too early to say whether this year’s First Day of Summer (Thursday, April 20) would also mark the actual start of summer.

“Cold spells with snow or rain can manifest themselves in this country throughout May and until June. But after this cold winter, it would be great to have a sunny and warm May to get rid of the ice from the ground and better prepare us for the arrival of summer,” Einar concluded by saying.

Collectors Critical of Proposed Amendment to Weapons Act

guns

A new bill sponsored by the Minister of Justice has been criticised by firearms collectors, RÚV reports. The bill – an amendment to the weapons act – repeals an exemption on the importation of semi-automatic and automatic weapons even if said weapons are being imported as collectables.

Repealing an exemption on “collectable weapons”

On February 28, the Ministry of Justice posted a draft of an amendment to the weapons act on the government’s online consultation portal. The ministry referred to the bill as part of “a necessary revision to the law,” which, among other things, proposes to repeal an exemption on the importation of so-called “collectable weapons” that may include semi-automatic and automatic firearms.

A total of 45 comments – most of them authored by collectors, firearms enthusiasts, and marksmen – were received in regard to the proposed amendment (comments were closed last March); gun collectors complained that their ability to collect firearms was going to be severely limited if the amendment was passed.

Read More: What Kind of Gun Laws Exist in Iceland

“I think it goes without saying that the regulations need to be tightened and that acquiring these weapons is made more difficult – in addition to making increased demands of dealers – but to completely ban importation without any solid reasoning smacks of authoritarianism,” one commentator noted.

Guðjón Agnarsson, who operates the gunship Byssusmiðja Agnars alongside his father, told RÚV that he disproved of the bill: “It’s primarily the fact that the selection of remarkable and historic guns that can be imported to Iceland is being limited,” Guðjón told RÚV.

On the heels of the domestic terror plot

As previously noted, the importation of semi-automatic and automatic firearms will be prohibited if the amendment passes – even if said weapons are considered collectables. WWII enthusiasts would, therefore, no longer be able to import the famous Luger pistol or the Walther PPK.

“The Luger is one of the biggest and most popular collectable guns, and then, of course, the Walther PPK, the pistol with which Hitler shot himself. It would be nice to have one like that,” the aforementioned Guðjón Agnarsson told RÚV. He and his father have requested a meeting with the Minister of Justice in order to discuss the bill and convey the views of the collectors.

As noted by RÚV, the Minister of Justice’s bill was introduced following the so-called domestic terrorism case; the defendants in the case – accused, and later acquitted, of plotting a domestic terrorism attack in Iceland – had hoarded numerous weapons, including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components, alongside a considerable amount of ammunition.

The father of the National Police Commissioner – a well-known firearms dealer, who operates the website www.vopnasali.is – was entangled in the case.