New Which? insight has shown that thousands of people have been prevented from paying with cash in recent months. Have you been affected?
Last month we launched a simple tool for people to tell us about times when they’ve experienced difficulties paying with cash, in light of concerns that an increasing number of shops have started to refuse cash since the pandemic’s outbreak.
The results are in, while not nationally representative, they do suggest a problem with cash acceptance across the UK.
You’ve alerted us to thousands of instances where cash has been refused, whether it be when buying essential items such as groceries and medicine, to parking to simply buying a coffee or going out to eat.
What’s more, while some people were able to go to another shop to buy the product with cash or use another payment method, a large proportion of people were unable to buy the item at all because cash was their only option.
Leaving empty handed
Worryingly, of those who responded – all of whom had experienced difficulties paying for things with cash – four in ten people were forced to leave a shop empty handed when trying to pay for groceries, while the figure stood at almost two in ten for those attempting to purchase medicine.
While some people claimed the experience resulted in nothing more than wasted time, we heard from many who expressed serious fears of being unable to cope or losing independence if further lockdown restrictions made shopping and paying with cash more of a challenge.
You spoke of feeling embarrassed or patronised when shops refused to serve them, and raised concerns that coronavirus was being used as an excuse to “get rid” of cash.
No consumer, regardless of what payment method they have available to them, should be shut out from buying the things they need to get buy – especially during the current crisis.
A worrying trend
We’re concerned that these personal experiences might point to a greater problem. If left unaddressed, this worrying trend of cash refusal will be allowed to continue unabated, leaving millions at risk of financial exclusion.
The government made a commitment to introducing legislation protecting access to cash in March 2020, but what’s the point in being able to access cash if you have no where to spend it?
Further work is needed to understand the scale and pace of change on cash acceptance.
As part of it’s work on cash, the Financial Conduct Authority must urgently improve it’s knowledge of issues affecting cash acceptance, including the impact cash refusal has on consumers.
Collecting national data on the problem will allow the regulator to establish what, if any, action is needed to make sure people can continue to pay their way.
Have you been affected by the sweeping spread of cash refusal? Continue sharing your stories with us.