UK risks sleepwalking into exclusionary cashless society


In December 2018, a report, "Access to Cash", written by the former financial ombusdsman Natalie Ceeney and independent from but paid for by the cash machine network operator Link, warned that the UK was at risk of sleepwalking into a cashless society and needed to protect an estimated 8 million people (17% of the British population) who would become disadvantaged as a result. Although cash used halved between 2007 and 2017, and debit cards passed cash in share of retail transactions in 2017, some sectors, such as charity donations and window cleaners, rely on it. The report also noted risks to rural communities, where connectivity is lacking; cognitively and physically impaired individuals who struggle to use digital service; household budgeting, which is easier with cash; victims of difficult or abusive relationships; and higher prices for those who can't use online services or direct debit. Forecasts from UK Finance say that cash will remain the second most common payment method in 2027. In February 2019, the UK's Treasury Committee requested urgent action to prevent the "collapse of access to cash" as banks and ATM closures continue. The chair of the Payment Systems Regulator, Lloyds Banking Group, and the Bank of England all suggested options for change to protect the cash infrastructure, which, once lost, will be near-impossible to rebuild.

Writer: Kevin Peachey; FinExtra

Publication: BBC; FinExtra

Publication date: 2018-12-19; 2019-03-06

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