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Freedom to Pay: UK citizens demanding government action

Categories : Cash is a public good, Cash is the most widely used payment instrument
March 6, 2019
Published in : ATM, Commercial bank, Social Inclusion
Consumer groups, lobbyists and organisations are calling on the UK government to take action in regards to the country’s reduced access to cash, demanding to appoint a dedicated regulator to protect consumers.

Since the UK’s dramatic rise of contactless payments in recent years, up to hundreds more cash machines are continuing to close down – urging lobbyists and organisations to step in and take action. Consumer group Which? together with the Federation of Small Businesses, British Retail Consortium and Association of Convenience Stores are now raising awareness to protect cash for UK consumers, calling on the country’s government to appoint a dedicated regulator.

Indeed, as the use of cards is increasing, so is the challenge of gaining access to cash. Banks and cash machines are disappearing at an alarming rate. Just last year, nearly 488 ATMs closed down every four weeks between June and December, according to data provided by LINK, UK’s largest cash machine network. Moreover, almost 4,700 machines closed during 2018 as opposed to 1,400 in 2017 — creating great concern, especially for those coming from low-income households. But despite the increasing popularity of digital banking and contactless payments, nearly three-quarters (73%) of people in the UK are continuing to use cash frequently.

LINK announced early this year that they would offer cash machine operators up to £2.75 per withdrawal in exchange to protect vulnerable free-to-use machines – yet it came with its skeptics. “Boosting premiums for remote machines has so far not been enough to stop cashpoints from closing around the country”, says Jenni Allen of Which?

To take the initiative further, Which? together with its partners recently launched their latest campaign called “Freedom to Pay. Our Way.’, where they aim to reach 150,000 petitioned signatures to demand the Government to establish a regulator that will protect consumers’ access to cash. “It’s time for a regulator to be given explicit responsibility for protecting access to notes and coins”, says Mike Cherry, the Federation’s National Chairman.

In the past, we talked about how a cashless society would hurt the poor but now, we see how going cashless is no longer just an issue for those living in rural communities. Building a sustainable cash infrastructure is necessary in our digital-transitioning world and having the freedom to pay for goods and services our way is a choice that should remain.

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