18th Nov 2020 @ 10:01 am

No one in Spain should pay more than 72 cents for a basic surgical face mask, after the Spanish government introduced a law setting a maximum price for these items on Monday.

The move followed the decision by the Spanish government to reduce IVA, the Spanish VAT equivalent, on personal protective equipment (PPE) from 21% to 4%.  On the Canaries, the regional government matched this gesture by abolishing its VAT equivalent, IGIC, entirely, after a 3% rate had been in operation on PPE.

Under the previous minimum price of 96 cents, established on 23rd April,  two Spanish consumers’ associations estimated that a family of four who follow the recommended guidelines for mask use would spend around €100 a month on masks – a cost that many households will find difficult to afford.

The new price cap only applies to the basic surgical masks widely available in chemists shops. Coloured masks, fabric masks and other non-basic masks do not have a maximum price.

The reduction in price is still not enough for Spain’s Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU), who say the masks are still too expensive and that the poorest 10% of households in Spain should receive them free of charge.

VAT on personal protective equipment has been a controversial issue throughout Europe, with Italy guaranteeing VAT-free PPE until next year, while the UK government reintroduced its 20% VAT rate on masks this month.  In Greece the maximum price of a basic mask is 50 cents, while in Greece it is 26 cents -less than half of the new Spain’s reduced price.

Mask advice

The Spanish government’s official mask recommendations include the following advice:

  • Don’t wear masks the wrong way  (the blue side should be outwards)
  • Hands must be washed before masks are put on.
  • Masks must cover the mouth and nose.
  • Avoid touching the mask once it’s on
  • Change the mask when it’s damp and do not re-use single-use masks (surgical masks are single-use)
  • Do not wear the same mask for more than four hours. 

The legal situation only requires that the mask must cover nose and mouth. Masks are not required to be worn by people under the age of 6, and exemptions are made in the case of certain physical or mental conditions. In this case, proof must be carried in the form of a doctors’ note