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Old hyperinflation days recalled at Russian shop pricing in 'units'

[MOSCOW] A small shop near Moscow is reviving memories of 1990s runaway inflation by stating prices in an unofficial unit pegged to foreign currency to protect against a steep fall in the rouble, according to a radio station.

The Uslovniye Yedintsy (UY) or 'conventional units' were a common sight on price tags in place of roubles after the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991 and the rampant inflation that followed from abolition of price regulation.

The unit price can be kept relatively constant, while the equivalent value in roubles the customer pays can be changed in line with the higher cost of, for instance, importing the goods.

Govorit Moskva radio station said the Art Real Company shop in Khimki suburb, which sells many imported ceramic tiles, has been indicating prices in units. The rouble has fallen 40 per cent against the dollar this year because of falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Russian involvement in a conflict in Ukraine.

The company declined to comment when reached by Reuters. Its website does not indicate prices and asks customers to check them by telephone or email.

Blogs suggest some other businesses, especially online, have also looked to the unit.

Pricing in 'units' has been largely absent over the past 15 years with the only exception being 2009 when some companies, mostly homebuilders, set prices in units again as the rouble weakened after the 2008 financial crisis.

It was not clear from the Govorit Moskva report what currency the Art Real Company's unit was pegged to.

According to the Russian consumer rights protection law, companies must indicate prices in roubles.