The Irish are writing far fewer cheques than they did ten years ago but the country remains one of the few in Europe where the paper instrument is still widely used, central bank figures show.
At the cheque's peak in 2005, 131.5 million were used - 32 per person - during the year. Since then there has been a significant decline every year and by 2012 the figure had plummeted to just 75.1 million - 19 per person.
However, this compares to an EU average of nine per person per year, with 20 out of 27 member states using just two or less cheques per annum. France is the only country with a significant lead on Ireland - a massive 46 cheques for each person each year.
In 2011, businesses issued 44% of all cheques - 37 million - in Ireland, with nine out of ten coming from SMEs. The majority - 57% - of cheques issued by businesses are payable to other firms.
Consumers account for more than a third of all cheques issued, equivalent to nearly 30 million in 2011. The majority of these - 56% - are payable to businesses, primarily to SMEs. Just over one third are to other consumers. Separate research shows, says the Central Bank of Ireland, that cheque usage among consumers is dominated by the elderly and the farming sector.
Ronnie O'Toole, programme manager, National Payments Programme, says that although there has been a sharp decline in cheque usage, there is a strong case for businesses to review their practices and cut back further.
"An ECB study estimates that a cheque costs around €3.55 when all costs are included. For a small business this cost includes the 50c stamp duty on each cheque, bank charges and postal charges, not to mention the time it takes for staff to process cheque payments. Further, there is strong evidence that cheque usage is a significant contributor to Ireland's 'late payment' culture," says O'Toole.
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