The planned abolition of cheques has caused huge controversy – and 92% of you voted to keep them in our poll. Now cheques might get a reprieve, as the Treasury Select Committee reopens it’s inquiry into their future…
When the UK Payments Council announced back in 2009 that it was intending to phase out cheques by 2018, I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t expecting too much in the way of opposition to the plan.
After all, we were told, the cheque is in ‘terminal decline’ – with just 4m written in 2009, compared with the 11m that were used in 1990. Meanwhile, internet banking seemingly gets more sophisticated by the day, and there are vast swathes of people pottering about the country who have never written, nor received, a cheque.
Not everyone’s an ex-chequer
Yet ever since the Payments Council first revealed its plan, there has been a grumbling swell of protest from consumers, businesses and charities about what this might mean in practice.
Age UK has argued that pensioners may be particularly hard hit by the demise of the cheque, while companies have pointed out that the cost of processing debit and credit card payments will eat into their profits.
Which? Conversation readers came out firmly in favour of keeping the cheque when we asked for your views in November. Of the 1,311 people who took part in our poll, 50% had written a cheque in the previous month, 76% had used one within the past year and one in five of you had sent a cheque to a friend or relative as a gift.
Treasury to think twice
Now, it seems some MPs are also concerned about the UK Payment’s Council’s proposed abolition of cheques. Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, has said:
‘The Payments Council had seemingly forgotten about the millions of people who remain less at ease with the latest technology. Since our last inquiry we have been inundated by letters from the public telling us that they rely on cheques.’
Consequently, the Committee is now seeking evidence on how many people are likely to use cheques over the next few years, and what the impact of sticking to the Payments Council’s original decision might be.
What’s the alternative?
Cheques may be in decline but clearly, millions of us still use them every year, whether it’s to pay for tradesmen, for a school trip or as gifts to loved ones. So what else would we use if they disappeared?
This need for a decent alternative is our main concern, as our Chief Executive Peter Vicary-Smith says:
‘The Treasury Select Committee’s focus should be on ensuring that alternative payment methods, that all consumers are comfortable with, are in place before cheques are consigned to the scrapheap.’
So do you think the Committee is right to reconsider the demise of cheques – and if not, what alternative method of payment would you like to see in place before they disappear?