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Which? calls on UK Government to prevent collapse of cash

Which? calls on UK Government to prevent collapse of cash

Consumer group Which? has called on the Government to protect the already fragile cash system from collapse as the UK's shift to a cashless society accelerates.

A survey of 2000 consumers by Which? found that half (51%) of those looking after the finances or grocery shopping of someone else had been paid in cash in return for doing shopping, highlighting its continued importance in communities across the country and the huge challenge that a cashless society presents for those who are not yet ready or able to make digital payments.

The research also highlighted that one in 10 people were refused by shops when trying to pay for items with cash, at a time when only those that were permitted to sell essential goods were open.

In March, the Government committed to legislating to protect access to cash for as long as people need it, after warnings that the system could collapse within two years.

Just last month, MPs from across the House of Commons called on the Chancellor to act now to protect the UK cash infrastructure from imminent collapse, as people shun ATMs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

As well as urging Government intervention, Which? also believes the FCA must collect and publish information about emergency measures that individual banks have put in place, including an assessment of their long-term suitability and effectiveness.

Gareth Shaw, head of Money at Which?, says: “The coronavirus outbreak has shown that cash remains vital to many consumers, particularly for vulnerable people who rely on it to pay for essential supplies.

"The government must urgently press ahead with the legislation it has already committed to before it becomes obsolete, as failure to do so risks excluding millions of people from engaging in the economy.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, has voiced her support for the Which? campaign. “Making sure that older people have the coins and banknotes they need to keep spending is surely in the best interests of businesses and the economy too," she says. "Before the pandemic started the government committed to legislating to protect access to cash for as long as people need it and this must happen sooner rather than later.

Comments: (2)

Russell Bell
Russell Bell - Fastbase Ltd - Wellington 03 June, 2020, 01:33Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Did people truly "shun ATMs" in the UK ?  Or is the problem supply, not demand.

A news headline here in New Zealand about a week ago "ATMs run out as consumers rush back to cash"

Marc Terry
Marc Terry - Cardtronics UK - Hatfield 03 June, 2020, 12:06Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I fully support Which?’s call to protect the UK’s cash infrastructure by reversing LINK's cuts to the interchange fee made in 2018. The Which? report shows how important it is to address this issue now as over half of those shopping on behalf of vulnerable friends and relatives during lockdown are paid back using cash, and the vulnerable must not be abandoned. A cash economy is also vital for the survival of small businesses, who can’t afford to leave any money on the table during the lockdown. If the cash ecosystem is dismantled further many of these businesses could go under.

As Which? suggests, alternative schemes to protect access to cash (such as cashback) merely paper over the cracks of the real problem, which is that the ATM network is shrinking rapidly due to LINK’s cuts to the interchange fee - driven by the banks refusal to provide the service for their customers. To truly protect the cash infrastructure, the government and the PSR must compel the banks to support the UK’s ATM network immediately, before it is too late.