/ Money

Freedom to Pay: what’s next?

Our Cash Summit brought together everyone who’s anyone in banking and finance. Now, we’re discussing what’s next for our Freedom to Pay campaign.

09/10/2019: Update

Today, we’ve revealed the effect of widespread cash machine closures, which have left many rural communities with long journeys to make free withdrawals, and some struggling to access cash at all.

Meanwhile, Barclays’ shocking decision to stop customers being able to withdraw cash from the Post Office from 8 January 2020 has exposed the fragility of the UK’s cash system, and blows apart industry claims that the Post Office network is a solution to the cash crisis.

The Government must step in and introduce legislation that guarantees consumers can continue to access and pay with cash for as long as it is needed. Do you agree?

17/06/2019: Freedom to Pay: what’s next?

In May, we welcomed the government’s unprecedented commitment to ensuring cash continues to be available to those who need it. Our supporters helped make this an issue that no-one could ignore.

The announcement showed that the government has heard us, and will now lead a new group to reduce the barriers people face when accessing cash.

Here are three of the biggest events and meetings we had last week to support our campaign:

1. Our Cash Summit

We hosted a Cash Summit with over 140 attendees talking about what’s needed to ensure people have the freedom to pay in whatever way suits their needs.

This included conversations about how to protect cash while it’s still needed, and actions businesses and the government can take to support people as they transition towards digital payments.

The event included speeches from Gwyneth Nurse the Director of Financial Services at the Treasury, Natalie Ceeney, who chaired the powerful Access to Cash review, the Managing Director of the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) Chris Hemsley and our CEO Anabel Hoult.

Joel Hills from ITV news hosted a panel discussion featuring Jenni Allen the Content Director at Which?, Natalie Ceeney, Martin McTague the Policy and Advocacy Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, John Hutton the Director of Payments at Nationwide and Mark Barnett the UK President of Mastercard.

Check out our Twitter hashtag to see more about the points that were discussed.

We know that some people choose not to use cash, but we believe that it remains a vital back up for everyone when systems fail. On the day of the summit we launched new research showing that 7 million people experienced an outage in the last year which prevented them using their debit or credit card.

We also discovered that one in ten people affected by an outage suffered a financial penalty, such as a late payment fee. The same proportion said their credit score was damaged because they failed to pay a bill on time. This received coverage across national and local media.

2. The Welsh Assembly

As Thomas Docherty explained last week, we gave evidence to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills committee for their inquiry into Access to Banking Services in Wales.

We highlighted the impact of bank closures across the nation, and that many Welsh people struggle to access online banking services due to poor connectivity.

We called on the Welsh Government to support our calls on the UK government to introduce a statutory duty and to do more to improve internet and phone signal across Wales.

3. The Scottish Affairs Committee

The Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster questioned the Minister John Glen MP, and representatives from the Post Office, as part of their Access to Financial Services inquiry.

The inquiry has been running for three months and we gave our evidence in March. We know that some people in Scotland have fewer payment options due to poor connectivity, the country losing over a third of its bank branches in eight years and regular cashpoint closures.

The Committee has strongly supported our campaign calls, and today asked the Minister to respond. This activity in the Westminster Parliament continues to apply pressure to the UK government to take urgent action. You can watch the session here.

What’s next?

Our campaign is far from over. We’re continuing to apply pressure to the government and the regulators to ensure they deliver on their promise, and the last week shows just how much we’ve got going on to help make this happen.

We’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s supported us so far, and for your contributions to previous topics here on Which? Conversation.

Did you welcome the government’s commitment to protecting access to cash? Do you feel supported by your bank as digital payments become more and more common?

julian reiss says:
5 December 2019

A lot of scams occur over the phone now I AM NOT saying BT are complicit in phone scams but they certainly enable a lot of fraudsters by a lax system of checking the reputation and indeed identity of would be fraudsters whether the applicants be companies or individuals and in fact are often making money from allowing nefarious or dubious companies by renting them a number/line without any formal checks as to the identity in particular companies that without BT would never even get the chance to make the millions of cold calls that go on daily,the fact that BT now offer a wide array of products that block these numbers mean that in effect they are complicit in phone scams as they must have some form of verification on who the offending callers are from.The next issue I have with BT something called SPOOFING whereby fraudsters pose as legitimate organisations I my self got a call from a number that when checked was the actual number of HMRC, that informed my i was being investigated for TAX EVASION and should press 1 on my phone to find out more,had I pressed 1 I may have lost all credit/money associated with that phone account) This form of fraud is quite complex but often involves numbers belonging to UK GOVT departments ie DVLA HMRC and many more what shocked me was that some of these SPOOFING scams had been going on for months or longer even after thousands of complaints by victims and by the GOVT departments involved and yet BT seemed helpless and certainly took no culpability in any way yet surely it is through their apathy or worse powerlessness to stop SPOOFING that once again they are complicit by at the very least showing a complete lack of due diligence by at least making some form of warning/alert on any public forums,
I go one step further by saying that maybe if BT and OPENREACH were not in the unique position of being in effect a private company with a blanket MONOPOLY on most of the UK’s comms infrastructure and had to as %95 of all other companies in the uk under our UK competition law and EU anti-trust laws, that in this day and age of transparency and freedom to purchase services based on performance, we would have the chance to better protect individuals and companies against the
exponentially and frankly very scary spread of the future of criminality that is now a global threat to every individual who has any form of digital communication device,currently running at 4.8 billion internet users alone let alone mobile users.BT please invest more of the £2.032 billion net income into better protection and security of we your captive customers.

I take it Julian you are not a BT customer as your information isn’t quite accurate?
For a start out of all communication networks telephone/broadband etc BT account for— 35 % of the industry in the UK SKY -Virgin Media etc account for the rest so by no means is BT the “monopoly ” you suggest.
Next –have you heard of UN bundling ? that’s HMG passed legislation forcing BT to accept all other ISP,s EQUIPMENT in BT exchanges and cable networks .
What that means is the diatribe you castigate BT with really applies to ALL the other telecommunications companies in this country who account for TWO THIRDS of communications in Britain as BT is not allowed to touch other companies equipment under penalty by HMG .
Those other companies programme their own equipment so if they are not providing what you criticise BT for then complain about them.

Next WHY do you think spoofing-masking etc is allowed in telephone calls and emails ?—because big business UK and USA use the same methods to hide their locations so HMG isn’t going to put a spoke in that being a business controlled government .
Globalisation is behind it –yes our government the USA government – the EU government all agreed to use those telecommunication methods at those big heavily guarded meetings in Germany and Scotland so its down to Global Enterprise .
Next there are many US web firms out there SELLING block virtual telephone numbers to scammers –legally .
I could say more but wait your reply ?

Duncan, the gist of your response seems to be that BT are powerless to innovate or intervene because they operate in a competitive market.

I think that is a very weak argument and does little to justify BT’s premium pricing within that market. I think it is disappointing that BT do not choose to supply a premium service in return for their premium pricing. Hence, I have not been a BT customer for very many years.

Julian said: … the fact that BT now offer a wide array of products that block these numbers mean that in effect they are complicit in phone scams …

I agree Julian and think it is despicable that BT make money out of peoples misery and will sell you products to use individually when they (and other telecoms companies) could stop nuisance calls across the networks.

On the question of monopoly, Julian made quite clear that BT had a monopoly “on most of the UK’s comms infrastructure”. That is not the same as a monopoly of communications traffic, but even there, according to Duncan, BT has a 35% share which is technically classed as a monopoly position, i.e. it has market dominance. That is the reason, together with its effective control of so much of the physical apparatus, why Ofcom have restricted BT’s freedom of movement, have forced the detachment of Openreach from the telecom service provision operation, enabled the ‘unbundling’ of the infrastructure to allow other providers to use BT’s equipment for their traffic, and required it to extend the broadband service to provide higher speeds and capacity to more distant locations [for which the government has made a financial contribution].

Didn’t any of you get my drift ? — 35 % isn’t two thirds of UK customers and not one of you have addressed my point of all those other ISP,s NOT reprogramming their software to stop those calls .
You make out BT should do something and Julian quotes capital lets quote SKY – as a company — £13.5 Billion -revenue don’t tell me BT has anywhere near the same . SKY could install gold plated equipment -next generation and with the engineering /scientific staff they have easily provide its customers with VoIP blocking –ask them why they don’t.
Ask Congress why they didn’t do the same to AT &T in the USA when they checked out how BT was treated — it stifled innovation and would have hampered AT & T from uprating their lines and equipment.
Ask VM customers who thought they were getting 300Mbps but due to VM meanness in causing cable congestion by cramming too many customers onto their fibre their website is jammed with complaints of- I pay for 300 Mbps and get 85Mbps –they wont install new fibre to save money .

Up the road from me traffic lights ,contractors for Openreach installing new fibre cabinet for additional 300 customers to STOP the congestion limit being reached at my cabinet -spoke to them.
Thats where BT is investing in while all those other companies “piggy back ” BT .

BT one of the last major BRITISH companies and that upsets many in power who want BT sold off to the USA and you know what I think of that — cut it down so that its forced to sell off , do you think big Telecom USA has given up on that ? no way.
Check out the BRITISH apprenticeships but means nothing to those who want the USA to control the whole of the UK .

Britain — open to all even our commercial /industrial heritage .

Definition of a monopoly-

nothing like what you quote John.

” the CMA describe a monopoly as any firm with more than 25% of the industry’s sales.

Your link appears to be US based.

This has gone way off-topic, and most points have been dealt with at length previously, so I am not going to respond.

Do you know how many companies operating in the UK who would fall into that CMA category Malcolm ?—a very long list so are they all monopolies ? it starts to look a bit silly from a logical viewpoint the USA one .
How about the Collins Dictionary –

or –

Seconding John’s observation above, this thread has moved well off-topic. May I suggest that if anyone would like to carry on this conversation thread, that they please do so in the Lobby, and that we keep the discussion focus as relevant as possible for people here in the UK.

Laura says:
10 December 2019

How do these Scammers and Fraudsters open business bank accounts in the first place? They are using the banks to steal from people!

Fake ID,s & counterfeit utility bills is one way Laura once the money is in them its shuttled through other accounts including overseas where each in turn is shut down.
Usually far too late for our slow services to trace .
Thats the basics .

Paul B. says:
11 December 2019

Why does BT connect calls from FAKE numbers and codes e.g. 02057835002? If I can look up these numbers then it can’t be that difficult for BT (and others) to block callers using fake Calling Line Identities and report them to the Police. Could it be that BT make money from connecting these scammers and their profits are more important than our security!

I can’t help wondering whether or not vested interests play a part here…

Paul the SAME system that is used by by those scammers is the SAME system that big business use to stop you finding their real location -VoIP it will only stop when HMG introduces legislation that forces EVERY ISP ( BT only accounts for 35 % of total UK communications ) to get their software engineers to design software/hardware that RECOGNISES the difference between the two fully digitally .
Thats why the US trials of a new digital blocking design is not 100 % effective , globalisation that included the Telephone and Communications Act was agreed by governments , including ours to introduce this system universally so that US companies can make out they are in Luton /Battersea/Tooting Broadway .
So this continual sniping at BT should really be directed at the City and HMG and the governments Friend the USA .
In some years time we will all be on VoIP then things will change and for my critics on this BT know all about it due to complaints from its customers BUT it will need HMG to force the change and allow for viable digital equipment and programming to be created as businesses that use this system are all for it as its “cheap as chips ” to use.

Really big businesses with hundreds or thousands of extensions can have their own non-geographic dialling code, others have to put up with whatever the local code is for the location served.

I should be interested to hear of a verified example of a business that uses a different code in order to disguise its location rather than for normal commercial reasons. The chances are that it has a base or operating unit in the particular area.

For many companies one telephone number covers a large number of outlets all over the country and connects a number of internal exchanges in order to improve customer service so that a call can be routed to the appropriate point without the caller having to redial and pay for another call.

Milind Dhanak says:
11 December 2019

I am surprised that Big Banks and FCA regulated Financial Institutions are being used by Criminals to scam innocent people and yet all of them are getting away as Banks will only freeze their account but not claim any liability or reimburse the victims of Fraud. What is even more surprising is that Banks like Halifax does not even check sort codes on their mobile banking app when you set up a new recipient. We all know very well that None of the Banks are required to check the Beneficiary Name but you would atleast expect the Banks to do basic checks on the Sort Code and Account No. There are absolutely No Safeguards for Bank customers and Bank customers are like sitting ducks for the sophisticated fraudsters who are manipulating the Banking system.

Ken Dunn says:
18 December 2019

I was very surprised when I got a traffic violation letter from Glasgow City Council and the only methods for payment were online or by phone. I have appealed the fine by replying to the return address on the back of the envelope (recorded signed for) and sent a cheque for the required early payment amount if the appeal is unsuccessful. I didn’t attempt to pay online or by phone as I’m sure these would have been automated services for taking my money by debit/credit card. I wonder if other City Councils work like this.

BasilJack says:
23 December 2019

All car park ticket machines should allow the option to pay by cash.

Tristan MacLennan says:
23 December 2019

This article mentions that only 31% of people in the UK use cash. This is absolute rubbish, as on many occasions the banks would simply not know about cash transactions until it is deposited into a bank. But those funds could have completed 100’s of transactions before eventually arriving at the bank to be recorded as a single transaction so the stats are rubbish (as usual). The real reason the banks want to do away with cash is that they will be able to milk their customers in foreign transactions. If you have ever check on your credit card or debit card what you have been charged for transaction while on holiday in another country, you will be shocked. What we need to be spending our time and money on is how to get rid of banksters altogether. These bankers are the biggest crooks on the planet. I urge everyone to become your own bank and then lets put these banking fraudsters in jail where they belong. Example: J P Morgan were eventually caught manipulating the foreign exchange (LIBOR) rates and paid a $100 million fine, but guess what, during this manipulation, they made $900 million doing it. What a joke!

James Graham Corscadden says:
24 December 2019

I use cash for all my transactions,when you have to physically count out money for purchases it will register in your brain how to budget the amount of money you have to spend and so you spend within your limits and don’t borrow,unlike those who use plastic cards spending money that they don’t physically see,their brain does not register what they have done so they go on spending with plastic their brain does not register how much money they have left to budget with as they are not physically seeing their account balance go down as they are using plastic not cash so they inevitably overspend much to delight of banks who charge them each and every time they overspend,unlike those who pay by cash don’t overspend as they unlike plastic users can physically see what’s happening to their balance so spending by cash registers in their brain unlike plastic users where it doesn’t register what they are doing.

Roger Bamford says:
24 December 2019

In my opinion the banks are keen for us to make card payments as each time we do they receive a small commission from the person/company we are paying. The major stores are also enthusiastic as it enables them to reduce staffing levels over time! What happens when there are too few people in work who can afford to buy the products on sale.

In fact banks make a stonking profit from cash. Traders who take money in to credit their business accounts have to pay significant commission on the counting process. For a long time I used to have an account at local traders, who used to give me not only commodity but cash too – and I settled up when the shop was clear perhaps 6 or 8 times a year – with a large 3-figure cheque, which saved the trader tens of pounds per year – and saved me several trips to a money shop.

The government must take urgent steps to fix the UK’s broken cash landscape£

“Figures from the 2019 Local Shop Report show that 46% of convenience stores have a free to use cash machine, with 18% having a pay to use machine. 62% of convenience stores provide cash back, and 100% of stores surveyed for the report accepted cash as a method of payment.

Perhaps, as well as other proposals, the Association of Convenience Store members could assist in making access to cash available at the till by allowing withdrawals of limited amounts against a bank card. After all, these stores benefit from people having cash and, as they accept cash, they will be in a position to dispense it. Saves them costs if they otherwise have to bank it.

Well our milk service – Milk & More – no longer take doorstep cheques. So I’ve stopped using them. They gave six months notice – and I gave six months notice of cancellation. For completeness I transcribe my notice letter below – with the format at the top of the letter mirroring their own pomposity:


IMPORTANT INFORMATION. Please read and action, this is relevant to you

Response to undated flyer: transfer custom to competitor

Dear Dr Müller

Thank you for your print-signed note accompanying my last delivery, warning that Milk & More intends to reject my payments from the end of 2019. Cash will remain legal tender, and the Consumers’ Association is campaigning accordingly – see https://campaigns.which.co.uk/freedom-to-pay/. I expected Milk & More to support this initiative. Unless you reconsider this unwelcome decision, with a heavy heart I shall relinquish your services. I thoroughly read your communique and am replying after due consideration; kindly do me the courtesy of reciprocating.

I have depended upon early morning doorstep milk since 1981, then daily, but now twice weekly – rather like my supermarket visits, to where I shall transfer my custom. I have loyally supported the industry longer than most, in the apparently misplaced hope that by so doing, an important community service of particular value to the elderly and vulnerable would be preserved.

Your three reasons for this hostile and discriminatory device are neither persuasive nor orientated to some of your most dependent customers:
1) Natural attrition of cash payments has already diminished the risk of robbery
2) A significant number of elderly and disadvantaged customers use only cash
3) The threat to personal and financial data is even more applicable to customer card details

Given the excellent service to date, I intend to remain a loyal customer until my payments are refused. Whilst I would welcome a personal response to this letter, PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT any further bulk communication coercing me to relinquish cash or cheque payment will be interpreted as HARASSMENT, and terminate our arrangement forthwith. In addition to direct email [edited] for your attention, I shall leave a copy of this note for the milkman and reserve my right to distribute further in the public interest.

Yours sincerely

Roger Pittock, customer.

[Moderator: this commented has been edited to remove contact details. Please don’t post contact details regardless of whether they are your own or others. For more information see the Community guidelines]

“Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, said:

“Our research has found banks are being hit by almost daily IT failures, …………………. more needs to be done to ensure that their systems are robust enough to prevent hugely disruptive outages.”

“It is unacceptable that these glitches are still so common across the industry, and banks must ensure their customers aren’t shut out of making payments as a result. Consumers have made it clear that cash is a vital back-up when digital systems fail –

Perfectly true, but as we have seen with Convo, airlines, Travelex, NHS, IT failiures do happen. Difficult, I’d suggest , to devise totally foolproof system.

However, “almost daily” is really not a helpful comment. That is the aggregate of all banks. Most of us only use one, possibly two, banks and they do not have daily failures. What would be interesting would be to have more information on the time most of the outages lasted. The table published by Which? in March 2019 would give those who might be concerned an insight into the best banks to use. I’d recommend mine.

Incidentally, I doubt cash would help most people when they cannot make an online payment for the duration of the failure.

The current Travelex shut-down was done in order to contain the virus and prevent data corruption. That seems to me to be a good precautionary act and a useful protection. It is unfortunate that it also led to the suspension of currency services by a few other banks and currency exchanges that use the Travelex platform and shows the benefit of making foreign exchange purchases in advance of requirements.

I doubt there is a financial system on this earth that can claim to be completely immune from outages since the possible causes are so numerous. It is remarkable that there are so few – although each one is very serious and can cause a lot of difficulty for customers. Parallel reserve systems might be a possible solution but the cost of maintaining such facilities could be disproportionate to their value and a good and quick remedial process could be the best we can hope for.

My bank very rarely has a service suspension. There is a status indicator on the internet banking landing page and I can only remember one occasion when I had to wait for normal service to be resumed; I don’t use the service every day, so I could have just been lucky at all the other times. With 15 million members my mutual building society offers superior service to any other bank I have used for current accounts and savings & investments.

Three days after finding the problem, the Travelex website does not even have a simple message explaining the problem and keeping people informed about progress. It is very easy to divert the homepage to a page on another server.

I’ve not had any problems as a result of access to online financial services, but the fact that problems are regularly reported in the news does suggest that they are a genuine consumer problem even though not everyone is affected.

Bharat Mistry says:
10 January 2020

I am really annoyed most of the time, as it phone rings at very un-convenient time. Also when no speaks to it, and most of trying sell or get info from you. Although you request to call. My block list is full and having to edit by removing numbers.