The fight for financial inclusion continues across the United States as Philadelphia takes action against the cashless initiative in its approval of a bill that would prohibit stores from going cashless. The proposed legislation – which garnered 4-1 by the Law and Government Committee last 14 February – seeks to ban retail stores from refusing to accept cash or charging a higher price to its cash-paying customers.
The bill was first introduced in 2018 by Councilman Bill Greenlee, who states that “as business models evolve, we must ensure that it’s not discriminatory” noting how nearly 6% of Philly residents are unbanked.
The legislative move would directly impact businesses such as Sweetgreen restaurant and Bluestone Lane café that do not accept cash. While many rejoice to what would be a step towards equal opportunity, Councilman Allan Domb thinks otherwise. As one of the council members who voted against the bill, he finds that the ban would do more harm than good by taking away the opportunity of creating more jobs that would give better access for people to be banked. Proponents of the bill, however, argue that cashless stores does not only put unrealistic expectations on people who may already struggle on a day-to-day basis to even put a bill in their pockets, but takes away the freedom of choice each one of us should rightfully have.
This, following New York and New Jersey’s bill to protect their city’s cash-users, brings us a sigh of relief knowing that lawmakers are realizing the importance of keeping cash in the payments ecosystem. But the bill’s approval could face some obstacles. Amazon is threatening Philadelphia officials over the cashless ban to cancel its plans of putting up an Amazon Go branch. The multi-national tech company will soon launch what it calls its most advanced shopping technology where customers would simply pay using its wired mobile app – thus never needing to wait in line for check-out.
There are many sides to the argument but, at the end of the day, the goal should be to ensure that all customers – regardless of difference – have the equal opportunity to enjoy the same services — something a cashless society cannot provide today.