/ 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?

Malcolm Clarke says:
2 February 2021

And what about access to coins!? Two hospital car parks that I have visited recently will only take £1 coins, or smaller denominations to pay for parking fees. Some will take smartphone app payments but if you don’t have a smartphone and you don’t have ‘coin cash’ to pay with you then risk suffering large fines for non payment of parking fees. This problem should be tackled from this end as well.

Malcolm C – It would certainly be useful if all car park pay machines took card payments as well as the other payment methods but the cost of conversion or replacement of the machines is probably prohibitive.

I can understand why car park pay machines do not accept banknotes: a machine full of heavy coins is not so attractive to the criminal mind as one containing lots of banknotes. Security of the employees emptying the machines is also a factor. Furthermore, taking banknotes might imply the need to provide change because parking charges never seem to come in nice round numbers like £5, £10, and £20.

Elizabeth Day says:
2 February 2021

Just using a card to pay is all very well but it’s easy to lose track of how much I’m spending. I much prefer to use cash so I can keep a check and don’t spend too much. I can’t even pop in to my main bank to keep track as they have closed my local branch. Nearest one is now 40 miles away.

The rot began when Virgin charged their customers £5 extra per month if they wanted to pay cash and then came the world banking crisis that somehow triggered our local authority to become cashless – I think they must have lost a load of our money and this was (for me an inconvenient) part of an economy drive.
Banks have proved themselves completely selfish and utterly incapable of gratitude for being bailed out by public money with interest cut to the bone and yet they stick two fingers up to the society that supported them and paid themselves their usual “performance” bonuses.

Banks have long been rushing to close branches when they record a reduced footfall yet a sane person would first downsize or explore the possibilities of mobile banking or perhaps even sharing premises with a shop or another bank also suffering reduced footfall. Barclays once had quite a successful pop up bank with a staff of one and our local Co-op Handybank used to operate very well with a staff of two.
Government should enshrine the right of people to access cash in law and banks should have to apply for permission to close a branch and have to prove it incapable of making a profit even if downsized. So far the loss of cash machines don’t bother me – I never use them as our little town is still well populated by banks but if that position radically changed I would probably do a Ken Dodd…

rizzza says:
2 February 2021

less cash transactions means more wealth to the greedy bankers you ask how banks carnt make any profit on real money until it comes back to the bank but they can charge and do make money ie profit
on every transaction you make with a card dont play into there hand dont give away your freedoms to these faceless bwankers let the ones that come after you have there freedom money gives them this. take it away and what will they have please open your eyes if not for your selfs for the ones that will stand on your shoulders thanks for reading these few words they are from my heart thanks again and have a little think on what you”ve just spent time reading its up to you now. let them in and freedoms dun they will no every thing you do. the real money in your hand is your strength it is the freedom for us all now and in the future example just look how much prices have gone up on amazon since lock down people buying with plastic when this is all over go back to the shops keep your high streets open with real; money its worth a lot more than you think in so many different ways the bankers now it you should to keep it and use it dont give it up its ower strength in this society

The most helpful thing those of us that can actually manage without cash can do is to use cash as much as possible. insist on using cash especially in large chain shops and take cash out of cash machines. It is reasonably wealthy people who do not have to budget to the last penny that are driving this cashless society. The people suffering are the old and the poor. We should be helping them. The virus is not spread by cash so there is no danger there.

Barbara says:
4 February 2021

Why are banks closing early? Shop’s don’t. With the closing down of cash machines this again restricts cash transactions, in or out.

Barbara – I can only assume its because there are not enough transactions to justify keeping staff on duty over more than one shift. The numbers of staff available might also be depleted by those who are ill or isolating.

Only shops selling essentials are open and they presumably have enough trade to keep open for longer.

I remember when banks only stayed open until 3pm, weekdays. My banks have longer hours now than then, including Saturdays. All the major banks support essential banking services through post offices – many thousands of them. I’d suggest things are better than they were in the good old days and when, despite cash being used far more and in larger amounts there were generally no means of getting it out of banking hours, unlike now.

Eunice Furborough says:
4 February 2021

No one has mentioned what we would do if the countries internet went down through whatever reason.
The cash machines would go down too, but without cash in our pockets how would we shop and trade?

Some systems can take card payments offline but there are disadvantages, see:-https://www.mobiletransaction.org/how-to-accept-credit-card-payments-offline/

Ilmarie Rencken Lloyd says:
5 February 2021

If scammers provide bank account details, surely the banks should be able to trace and identify these criminals as they would have had to do KYC for the bank account Proof of Identity and Proof of Address. Is this just that the banks and the police do not have the will to follow this clear lead? Maybe a kind detective somewhere can take up these cases?

Ilmarie – You have touched on the perpetual mystery with the Authorised Push Payment scams where criminals intercept e-mails and give instructions for diverting on-line payments to their own bank accounts.

Assuming the transfer doesn’t get immediately redirected to yet another account it should be possible to trace the recipient; if not, then the receiving bank should be held liable absolutely.

Patrick Simpson says:
19 February 2021

I have been stupid and given my card details to some firms who have proved less than trustworthy. The NatWest has been supportive, generally refunding my losses. They have also reported one case to the police who are still following it up. I have now stopped giving me card details to anyone other than one company that I know to be scrupulously honest.

The post office in our village has closed where i used to pay bills and bank.The two banks that i have been with for 30 years or more have closed,and now you have travel 10 miles to get to their other branches.If your card acts up and you have no cash on you due to a lack of cash machines,and you have just filled the car with fuel,or the shopping trolley goods need paying for it can be very embarrassing holding the que up at the check out.The banking sytem is there to look after the bankers and not the customers,try to get a reasonable rate of interest for your savings at any bank and you will be very disappointed.It wasn’t that many years ago that OUR MONEY, PUBLIC MONEY,was used to dig the greedy banker,s out of the manure,caused by their bad managment causing the bank crash.We should have kept the banking system under tighter control and made it serve their customers more fairly,and stopped them lining their own pockets with huge bonuses.We all should benifit from the banking sytstem not just a few grossly over paid individuals.

Paul, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

In my case, I cannot remember when I last paid a bill at a bank. Instead I pay by direct debit or over the phone. I also carry two different payment cards, so that I have a backup in case my usual one does not work.

Bruce Chanter says:
19 February 2021

Think about the Car Boot Sales. How many sellers would have facilities for cashless sales?

I think there would have to be kiosk there selling Boot Coins for use exclusively on the site. Sellers would first buy a float using their card, buyers would contactlessly buy some spending money, and then sellers would pay to redeem their takings for a bank transfer. A nice little earner for the kiosk! Another good example of why there will be a continuing need for cash, although I am sure someone will point out an easier way to operate

Many of the sellers at boot sales are traders and come equipped to take payment in whatever form it presents itself. There is a faint possibility that some of the goods offered at car boot sales are not 100% legitimate, or ‘hooky’ as some entrepreneurial independent traders would say, and a cashless society would probably disrupt that sort of activity.

Marcus Deville says:
23 February 2021

I think it is about time FACEBOOK were brought to account for all the illegal and fraudulent chinese (mainly) scammers whom they seem to not verify or validate in any form, they also seem to just ignore complaints about these “companies”… now the last I heard aiding and abetting fraud was a criminal offence !!! Why on earth have FB not been investigated yet as this is a blatant criminal act.
What these people do is offer you something that they think is appealing, at a stupid price. When you buy, you get no answer for weeks and then the item is either unavailable or not in stock – in other words, it doesn’t exist, certainly not in the form shown to you!
The next stage is complaining, which is when you are offered 10% off if you wait, or a refund, which doesn’t include postage and is likely to be only a percentage of what you paid. If you do get your item, it is very often the wrong one, which is very much cheaper, or it will be of very poor quality, be broken, be a fraction of the size, or incomplete.
If you pay via Paypal, they have yet another way to get around the system. If you buy say, a ride-on child’s dinosaur, they will send you a miniature. Why? Because they use the tracking to prove that you were indeed delivered a dinosaur. Large beanbags will come smaller than advertised, or with empty skins, or both. When Facebook investigates, they find the tracking info and usually, it ends there – they will simply find in favour of the company.
The majority are foreign advertisers, 99% of them are Chinese.
If they make £6 out of keeping your postage and then take 10% for ‘processing fees’ they are making a nice few quid from you. They will often charge for non-existent processing, Shopify fees and warehouse storage, even if you cancel immediately.
This shows that this is merely a ruse and a scam, as most good companies will refund you in full. You may be plied with offers of percentages for waiting longer if it’s ‘out of stock’. Strange, because it’s never IN stock in the first place! It’s called the ‘bait and switch’.
Many, if not all of the items you see do not even exist!!
It’s about time FB was legally challenged by the appropriate governing body !!!

Yes, Marcus, but Facebook and others are effectively immune from legal action because consumers have no contractual relationship with social media sites and no money changes hands between the customer and Facebook. Facebook declares itself to be merely a platform that enables introductions between buyers and sellers. It does not check the products offered, or the terms of trade, or the performance of the supplier after an order has been placed and payment made. It is dreadfully fraudulent but the criminals are in a different jurisdiction thousands of miles away beyond even the long arm of our laws. Facebook is probably not breaking any laws so cannot be challenged.

The best thing we can all do is publicise the hazards of buying this way and warn seemingly aware people who might nevertheless be tempted by “stupid prices” of the risk of doing so. Facebook and the other social media channels seem to have a peculiar and beguiling effect on some people whereby they take their brain out and do something stupid. It’s hard to legislate for that.

Facebook is like a free newspaper – funded by adverts. But that is no reason for any of us to shop there.

most good companies will refund you in full.”. Which is a good reason to buy from good companies – their credentials, if you do not know them, can usually be checked out – and avoid companies or sellers you have never heard of, and not checked out. We can limit the risk. But if someone sees a “bargain”, and they do exist, and is prepared to take the risk then they must accept that is what it is.

Dave Thomas says:
25 February 2021

Have been contacted today 3 times by a phone call today stating that i had placed an order with Amazon and to press 1 if it was correct.
I have no oustanding order with Amazon and I have contacted them and as yet no response.
As this huge International Company and with their current advertising campaign I would have thought that they would have a much better customer service response team in place, as this sort of operation doe not bode well for business

Did you mean to post this here?

Rose Waring says:
27 February 2021

Alleged BT cancellation! My Niece received phone call claiming she had to pay over £31 to continue to have her BT phone line otherwise she would then be charged over £130 to reconnect. She knew it was a scam but he, with his African accent simply held down the press button and could hear her trying to check up on him. She did not give her credit card details which is what he was after. Later, she contacted the police who informed her she was correct in not giving her details but to inform as many people about the scam as much as possible. Some, including my neighbour were already aware of this scam but may be it has changed now from wanting Bank Details to Credit Cards.

It has been long predicted by researchers labelled “conspiracy theorists” that there is a high level agenda to eliminate cash. The reason is that it would remove choice from millions of people and give more power to those in charge to control us by blocking our credit or debit cards if we don’t acquiesce to their authority or openly criticise them.

Despite our leaders ridiculing such a claim and denying any plan to remove cash, it is clearly happening. Removing cash, is yet another shift to the Orwellian dystopia, with loss of democracy, freedom and rights that is rapidly happening now.

Stan – I think that really is conspiracy theory on steroids.

I have seen no evidence to support your contention. Access to cash has declined, largely because demand for it has reduced for many reasons, but the function of cash as a unit of payment and exchange wherever appropriate has not been diminished. These Conversations have demonstrated hundreds of uses for cash which will remain as the present restrictions are scaled back. Perhaps you could identify which elements of democracy, freedom and rights we are currently losing and how they are supported by cash.

Tricia Edwards says:
27 February 2021

I have received various scam phone calls only one of which I unfortunately I fell for. But after putting the phone down I immediately contacted Lloyds Bank where I have a ‘telephone banking account’ to check that nothing had been or should be taken from my account.
Nowadays unless I can see who’s calling I generally let my answerphone take any messages and it’s amazing how many there in each 24hrs. a lot of them being ‘unavailable’ numbers.
But would point out that surgeries also use the unavailable service and are not known to leave messages. Which in the case of a follow up ‘unavailable’ call on pre discussed details of a home visit for the Covid vaccine shot, when the original call clearly displayed the surgeries phone number.
Not exactly joined up writing.

Tricia – I don’t know why calls from surgeries should be shown as ‘unavailable’. The full number of my GP surgery is shown on the screen on our landline telephone, possibly because it is listed in the contact list. Perhaps any call blocking you have set up on your phone is over-restrictive and you need a more selective approach.

The surgery also leaves a message if their call is not answered; no personal information is left but a request is made to call back. It is unlikely that anyone else would recognise the phone number displayed as being our doctors’ office.

Two weeks ago I had a call from a withheld number on my landline phone. I guessed it was a scam or marketing call but it was the GP surgery inviting me to go for vaccination. The number is in the phone book but that makes no difference if the call is withheld. I presume different surgeries operate differently.