On July 19 2022, Irish bank AIB announced it would withdraw Money in physical form such as banknotes and coins. More services in 70 of its 170 branches. The announcement triggered a considerable backlash from consumers, business groups, farmers and politicians, eventually resulting in the project’s cancellation. The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) invited the head of AIB to “reconsider and reflect” on its decision. The Central Bank said vulnerable customers should have full access to basic banking services. Only three days later, AIB backtracked, saying it had “decided not to proceed with the proposed changes to its bank services,” acknowledging “customer and public unease.”
In April 2023, Thai bank KTB, the country’s third-largest lender by total assets, with a fleet of 9,000 ATMs, announced it would charge a fee of 10 baht (€0.27) for cash withdrawals. The announcement triggered a wave of public protests, particularly on social media. Following the public backlash, the bank cancelled its plan the following day. It announced it would indefinitely postpone the fee and await further guidance from the central bank, reported The Bangkok Post.
In Norway, the “Ja til Kontanter” (Yes to Cash) group was founded in 2016 and now gathers 57,000 members on Facebook. It calls for banks to increase the availability of cash and for the mandatory acceptance of cash by merchants. The group provides legal support to members who have been refused the option to pay in cash.
In Australia, an ongoing This is the action by which certain banknotes and/or coins are exchanged for the same amount in banknotes/coins of a different face value, or unit value. See Exchange. More.org! petition is calling for the government to protect cash by law. It has gathered at the time of writing 116,888 signatures. It calls for an Australian Banking and Cash Guarantee with reasonable local access to cash and complete banking services and the option to choose cash when paying for food and essentials at physical retailers.
In Belgium, a petition jointly launched by consumer groups Financité, Okra and Testachats is calling for the government to end the closing down of ATMs and restore the number of ATMs to the level of December 2021. Belgium is seeing ATMs shut down fastest in Europe, dropping numbers from more than 8,000 devices in 2017 to 5,900 in 2021. It is expected to decline to less than 4,000 in 2024. The petition has gathered over 28,000 signatures at the time of writing.
In the town of Rixensart in Belgium (population 22,000), a petition gathered over 4,000 signatures in April 2023 calling for the ATM operator Batopin to reinstall an ATM. In May, the town announced a partnership with Loomis to install an ATM.
In the UK, consumer association Which? He has been a vocal advocate for cash for years, campaigning for access to cash with free-to-use ATMs and legislation protecting access to cash. Its last petition, which is now closed, gathered over 201,560 signatures. In May 2022, Anabel Hoult, Which? Chief Executive said: “Which? has fought for years on behalf of millions of people and communities nationwide that rely on cash, so we welcome the government’s commitment to introduce legislation this coming year to protect access to cash.”
Also, in the UK, trade union GMB has been campaigning to “save our cash lifeline”, calling on the government to protect the cash industry and people’s access to cash. “The industry is now on a knife-edge. GMB Union represents workers in the cash industry and is currently in redundancy consultations with cash-in-transit companies G4S, where 1,150 jobs are at risk from restructuring plans, and Loomis, who have announced 300 redundancies. The government needs to bring its legislation forward to protect the country’s cash infrastructure before it’s too late.” reads the petition.
In September 2022, Josef Binder, a 53-year-old owner of a carpentry shop on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, and his secretary, Sabine Hazel, 54, launched an extremely popular citizens’ petition, aiming to have the Constitution amended to include “the right to pay in cash without any restrictions,” their petition has received over 530,000 signatures – far more than the 100,000 required to launch a debate in parliament. “We’re getting 10,000 more signatures every hour,” said the carpenter on a crusade against what he suspects is state infiltration. “
In Switzerland, a popular initiative – a form of direct democracy – was submitted in February 2023, calling for access to banknotes and coins to be enshrined in the Constitution. In May 2023, the Federal Council submitted a direct counter-proposal to incorporate additional legal wording into the Constitution.
It is unclear today whether these various initiatives will succeed in enabling future access to cash and the freedom to pay in cash. However, they indeed illustrate the growing concerns of citizens around the globe, being forcefully nudged away from cash. Are you aware of other consumer initiatives aimed at supporting cash?