/ 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?

Lesley Whyte says:
19 September 2020

A problem I have encountered with the bank since Covid is they won’t take bags of change. They have said if I had a bill to pay and insignificant funds in my bank account they would accept bags of change . The problem is my husband who died a few weeks ago had a lot of change and I would have liked to deposit it into my account.

Lesley – I don’t understand the reason for this restriction. Banks have automatic coin-counting machines and there is no need for any human contact with the coins. It could be to do with the current surplus of change that has accumulated because of the huge rise in on-line and contactless transactions in recent months for some reason and the reduced demand from traders for cash floats.

Really it’s a problem for the executor or administrator of your late husband’s estate but if that includes you we are no further forward. I can only suggest you spend it in small amounts in local shops or markets using the higher values first. Many supermarkets have a coin-changing machine which, for a small deduction, gives vouchers that can be spent in the store. Unfortunately, even pay-&-display parking machines will only take small values in coin. Pre-Covid, pubs would readily accept coins but they have gone cashless as far as possible now.

See also:-https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/54201640

leslie banham says:
20 September 2020

to rely on one system of payment electronically is dangerous-we must have the cash alternative as well.it will only take a rogue country to shut the internet down which will cause mayhem,then what? this is not impossible,after all who could have predicted the mayhem covid has caused nationally and internationally

Dr Stephanie Brown says:
21 September 2020

Leslie Banham is right. It is the height of folly to marginalise cash – which seems to be a step towards its eventual eradication. All the eggs in one electronic basket leaves us hostage to rogue states or individuals and reduces the control we have in accessing our own money. If the system collapses people will be powerless unless they can access cash. It is not inconceivable that hostile actions can incapacitate the whole virtual banking system – the NHS has been targetted in the past and only a couple of weeks ago Newcastle University’s entire IT system was paralysed by ransom ware. Already there are numerous problems with credit card fraud, hacking and increasingly sophisticated scams affecting online banking. If we entrust our money to a virtual piggy bank we may find that it contains nothing more than thin air. Furthermore, many people – waiting staff, hairdressers etc – rely on cash tips to bolster poor wages, and others – market traders, window cleaners, gardeners etc who also rely on cash payments.

Rich Hurst says:
21 September 2020

Cash belongs to the individual to manage as they wish and we all need to be able to decide how to do this. Cash forms part of an ancient bartering system where goods are traded between two parties. At one time it would have been some eggs for some apples or somesuch, later tokens (coins/paper IOU’s) became accepted to make trading easier and allow people obtain the things they actually required thus expanding the marketplace. Cash must remain as part of the monetary system albeit co-existing with other forms of payments in the global monetary system. There is no need and indeed it must not be totally replaced by offerings from the 3rd party financial world whose only aim is to make a living out of our daily working lives by charging a fee every time we want to make any kind of financial transaction. The next logical step for them is to start to take control of interest rates. We all know what happens when financial systems fail!