/ 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?

Joy Marlborough says:
5 December 2020

This situation is, unfortunately, becoming quite common. We’re it not for good neighbours and community buses many elderly people would be stranded and have to leave the homes that they love.

The Government needs to get a grip of the banks and financial services and bring in legislation to ensure banks and financial services have a legal responsibility to make provision for those members of society who, are unable or do not want to use online banking. The Corona Virus has provided the banks with the ideal opportunity to close down branches and ATM’s to enable them to make more profit. I could be cynical and say the Government and HRMC are complicit in the push to on-line banking as it allows them transparency and control of all our financial activities. No more black economy, no more cash in hand jobs and more tax revenue. They would not be that devious, would they?

D Roberts – I think we need to explore the reasons why people “do not want” to use on-line banking if they are not unable to do so. The coronavirus emergency has demonstrated how people have managed to carry out a wide range of banking functions without visiting an actual branch – and that has shown the banks that there is gross over-provision of banking infrastructure, hence the pressure to close facilities.

The important thing is to ensure that every sizeable community has basic banking facilities for withdrawing cash and depositing payments, and that where there are such facilities it is also possible to transact other routine banking business. Many functions, like taking out a loan, paying in cheques, arranging an overdraft, opening a savings account or investment, changing account details, transferring money between accounts, buying stocks and shares, and setting up a direct debit or standing order, can be done by post or on the telephone. I do not see why the banks should operate expensive branches where there is little demand for such services or the demand can be met in more efficient and economical ways.

Hundreds of new housing developments have sprung up in the last few decades with not a hint of a bank branch; they have convenience stores and a basic range of shops but do not have the full suite of public services that used to characterise a small village or town. The rise of personal transport and the internet have changed the pattern of life throughout the country. Forcing banks to offer uneconomic services will rebound in various ways including higher fees and charges, reduced facilities, lower interest on savings. I don’t think we want to hand over £5 every time we want to pay in a cheque over the counter or withdraw some money from a savings account, but that is what could happen, and the government probably realises that so shows no signs of adopting your proposal.

I should be interested to learn what particular everyday banking activities people really need that require the maintenance of a very large network of bank branches.

Many ideas have been put forward in these Conversations for banks to cooperate in the provision of services so that one or two banks in a small town are sufficient and the customers of other banks can be served for routine requirements.

There are occasional banking needs that arise where there is no practical alternative to dealing with one’s own bank but these are few and far between and can be handled in a variety of ways, starting with a telephone call, possibly involving a home visit, perhaps meeting the bank’s representative in an office in the nearest town which they use on one day a week in rotation, with postal services for form-filling and signatures. Most people seem to be able to visit their main town from time to time for major shopping, medical services, holiday bookings, entertainment, football matches, and so on. Making an appointment to visit their bank’s office is not really much different to having a meeting with your solicitor or going to the dentist [although an extraction might be more uncomfortable].

I strongly support the need for continued access to cash, and new ways of meeting this need are being developed and trialled in various parts of the country, but keeping a full set of bank branches open in all areas is just not viable and the public has demonstrated that it is not necessary. Every year the percentage of the population that can do their banking and other personal business on-line is growing, and so long as the banks do not abandon those who cannot, and actually offer help and guidance to them, I don’t think government intervention is required.

By the way, I see a reduction in the scale of the black economy, tax evasion, and money laundering as a good thing.

11000 plus post offices offer basic banking services in a cooperative venture with most banks. I do bank online and it is far better than having to make a trip to a branch. Much of this is to make payments, but I can still do that be cheque and post if I choose. I very rarely receive cheques but they can also be paid in by post or,in many cases, at a PO.

If we don’t use services we can expect their provision to diminish. But, as with ATMs, there will be many people who have never had convenient access to a bank branch and for whom online banking had been a godsend.

Mobile banking offers many features in common with computer-based online banking and can be used by those who don’t have a computer. Both have their advantages but I suspect that most people would find mobile banking much easier to use.

Albert anthony Wilson says:
7 December 2020

Why shouldn’t I have the choice of skipping cookies, it is getting so annoying.

Albert – Allowing cookies has become an entry requirement for many websites. It has been like that for a long time – it’s just that we didn’t know about it. I think it was the General Data Protection Regulations [2018] that created the necessity for users to actively allow cookies rather than having to passively accept them, and this means the ‘Cookies’ message pops up every time you access a new website.

There is usually a commercial element involved under the guise of “improving your user experience” – also known as “so we can undertake a wide range of analytical and profile-building exercises with a marketing purpose in the background”. The marketing might not necessarily be targeted by the website at the individual user but the compilation of such data can be used to attract more advertising or charge higher fees for the advertising carried – and each click on an advert will open up another cookie-acceptance button. It’s all about monetising our browsing activity and I doubt if there is any way back from this situation now. You can clear out all the cookies but that makes life difficult if you visit any website frequently, so most people end up tolerating cookies.

I used to block all cookies but more and more sites forced me to use them. The first time I reluctantly enabled cookies was to order from John Lewis. It’s not just businesses that use cookies now.

Wendy Nicholson says:
8 December 2020

John lewis should be ashamed of themselves – they have very little stock in whites and phones – hopeless these days

I think John Ward’s analysis is spot on, but only skimming the surface.

I always try to reject cookies etc. but am pretty sure my rejection doesn’t work much of the time. Very often you get asked again every page you visit on the website, or you can’t look at anything unless you accept.

I was going through Privacy Settings on The Guardian and came across a few Features I haven’t noticed before:
Link different devices
Vendors can:
– Deterministically determine that two or more devices belong to the same user or household
– Probabilistically determine that two or more devices belong to the same user or household
– Actively scan device characteristics for identification for probabilistic identification if users have allowed vendors to actively scan device characteristics for identification (Special Feature 2)

(Special Feature 2 is probably at the bottom and can’t be scrolled to !!!)

Receive and use automatically-sent device characteristics for identification
Vendors can:
– Create an identifier using data collected automatically from a device for specific characteristics, e.g. IP address, user-agent string.
– Use such an identifier to attempt to re-identify a device.

Other Essential Cookies
Custom Purpose

-These vendors use cookies to ensure their services work correctly. They cannot be switched off. You can find out more in our privacy policy and cookie policy.
– A vendor may allow you to manage your information on their company website.
– – – PayPal

Unless you are buying something from The Guardian, why would PayPal have the right to leave cookies on your device?

So not only is The Guardian ‘improving your user experience’ it is poking its nose around your computer while it has the opportunity on behalf of at least a few hundred other businesses. Does it leave spyware behind when you clear out your browsing data? Who knows? Microsoft have now prevented you having access to all that collected data unless you know your way around an operating system and even then block you again when you manage to gain access.

And this happens on every website you visit.

If fraudsters continue to be openly allowed to access websystems there will eventually come a day when the whole online system collapses. The source of this problem lies directly at the door of the major web companies whose utterly irresponsible failure
to police their sites will eventually kill the the structure which supports them.

The clock is ticking………

Online profits are in the billions. There needs to be more attention to online security. Scam content should be controlled by websites. Otherwise the whole system will collapse.
Remember Terry Goodkind’s ” Wizards First Rule” (People Are Stupid, they will believe anything!

John Dakin says:
30 December 2020

I have been a near victim of the HSBC phishing scam, as far as going to my local HSBC branch where supposedly the payee fraud was being committed, I even generated a security code, which supposedly didn’t work, it was only when I was asked to input my PIN number, the penny dropped and I terminated the call. Since then my wife has had two phishing texts one from Lloyds and another from HSBC both of which I have reported to the GOV website.

Z Hall says:
5 January 2021

I would like to make members aware of companies with dishonest repuations i.e i am struggling to get a refund for a parcel which went missing from Easy Life sent to me in NOVEMBER, aparently Hermes are there with them in dishonest dealings. In future I will look up all customers comments before making a purchase, did not go through Amazon on E-Bay

Z Hall – Hermes, the carrier, are under contract to the consignor, Easy Life, and have no particular obligation to you. You need to seek redress from Easy Life directly – they cannot palm you off onto Hermes.

In most cases the carrier details are not known at the time of placing an order, which is unsatisfactory because some are much less reliable than others.

If this is the same Easylife Ltd who are selling 80ml of alcohol-based hand gel for £4.99 + £4.99 p&p?

They also sell SurSol Face Mask Sanitising Spray (75ml) for £7.99 + £4.99 which does not list any active ingredient, but is “Alcohol-free, fragrance-free and chemical-free… “. Wow! Magical stuff!

Yet the blurb goes on: ” … its [sic] formulated using Quats [quaternary ammonium compounds – and that’s not a chemical???] to comply with EN 1276 & EN 14476 … “. The EN numbers are quantitative tests to determine the antimicrobial efficacy of **chemical** disinfectants!!!

In summary, they want to charge you £13 for a tenth of a bottle of Dettol surface cleaning spray, and even mislead over the composition of the product.

You don’t need to place an order with them to find out they are scammers. It says so on their website, if you read between the lines.

Marjory Durney says:
11 January 2021

I was scammed through someone purporting to be Amazon fortunately I realised it was a scam
when I tried to ring the number and it was unavailable.
I rang my bank straight away and did not loose any money the scammers tried to get £800-00 .
Had to change my details I do not do any transactions through Amazon now

Christopher Johnson says:
20 January 2021

The latest announcement by HSBC to close 80 plus branches in 2021 is yet another step to remove cash access. In my community their branch, due to close, is the last bank in our suburban shopping centre, full of independent shops and small businesses, plus they have 2 ATM machines. This action follows the closure of another bank and a building society branch in the last three or four years. The nearest Post Office, with its huge queues, is half a mile away. This is slowly but surely changing our way of life, but safeguarding is not in place – we still need cash, and more online banking means more online fraud. The other worry is when the inevitable computer crash renders all transactions impossible, as has happened to more than one bank in the last few years.

Communities still need access to cash ! We need to pay cash in and out of accounts occasionally. Everything can’t be done digitally. I for one do not feel safe enough to bank online . It is the banks themselves , more than any one, who have pushed people in this direction.

It is also the consumers who have willingly adopted new forms of payment, extremely convenient for many, that has resulted in consequences. I hope the access to cash trials currently underway will enable far more people convenient access than in the past.

Increasing car ownership had its impact on public transport. This sort of change, occasioned by what we deem “progress”, is not uncommon.

Common sense would suggest that alternatives to ATMs should have been in place before they are removed.

Getting on for 11500 post offices gave access to cash in an agreement with banks. The number of sites offering access to cash then became more than for many years.

Consumers have played their part in what may be seen as an unwelcome consequence; reduction in ATMs. However we need to look at whether the reduction has significantly disadvantaged most consumers. A parliamentary reports points out that most may have a further 250 yards to travel at worst.

LINK are doing a good job, I believe, in supporting the ATM network. Access to Cash are looking to have alternative methods introduced which could benefit almost everyone.

I see that Nationwide has extended its pledge to keep a branch with manager open, in any town or city where they are already present, until at least January 2023. This does not stop them merging branches that are relatively close of course. I expect some will see negatives in this but, to me it seems to be reassuring. I wonder of other banks will follow suit?

That’s a useful commitment but for two years it’s the least I would expect from a building society with 15 million members.

They recently refurbished one branch in Norwich city centre and, as I predicted, have subsequently closed the other one that was about half a mile away and which was actually a more commodious premises. Both were in main shopping parades and relatively busy with extensive queueing at times. The one that remains now finds itself opposite empty BHS and Argos stores, a few yards from Debenhams, very close to House of Fraser, in the same strip as some other vacant shops and closed Halifax and Santander branches, and near a former Lloyds Bank awaiting a new occupant. Perfect.

Perhaps supermarkets could B consulted 2 rent small spaces 2 banks 4 basic services. These pop ups would have glass fronts w/ doors that lock so they can still have hrs that suit them. The supermarkets that do this would benefit from more foot traffic 2 their store & most likely 4 patrons 2 shop there

If i can only use a card to pay for things, it means banks (and possibly Government, in the future) can see exactly where and on what, I spend my own money, very much a ‘Big Brother’ scenario. If I wish to put some cash in a birthday card/present would be unable to. I like carrying cash and card for larger purchases.

Why is it we are only aware after the scam has taken place what we should NOT DO
Surely in this day and age more awareness should be made ie billboards on trains etc when you have no choice but to stare at the advert in front of you. More awareness would surely help stop this and stop the victims feeling like criminals because they feel for the scam and now feel ashamed. Jane J

Wathsapp Scammer Alert !!! Beware…..Do not trust this person and inform the Police if she is trying to promoting online trading.
The name of Fraud Account Manager : Lorella Anne

She still a lot of money to several person, London resident promoter of Fraud Team based at:

HQ FxPro UK, 13-14 Basinghall street City Of London, EC2V 5BQ, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 2077769720
Fax: +44 2076007063

Website:fxpro24.com Firm Name: FXPRO UK Limited

I’m not convinced the government has any genuine commitment to protecting access to cash. I dont believe them.

I would have had all my money taken due to online banking if it hadn’t been for my son so now I only use cash which I know what I have spent and how much I have left in the bank. If I was left to use a card I would go hungry because I wouldn’t use again under any circumstances.

There is going to be one hellava mess if this rush to online only goes on. We oldies can see it coming but the young techies who advise the banks cannot. Third world countries often have to rely on the dollar to continue trading. Will we be forced to have a black market in dollars (risky as there are so many fakes) or the Euro. Now that would be ironic! Who benefits from this mess long term? It is too easy to seed “modern” ideas into the minds of bankers with the promise of better returns which in the end damages the whole country. Think sub-prime market fiasco for a start. There must always be an alternative fall back system when the preferred one crashes else society implodes. Are some people out there pulling these strings? Our government needs to wise up and protect us and the UK’s monetary system. Saving cash will mean saving our freedom from outside control.

There is going to be one hellava mess if this rush to online only goes on. We oldies can see it coming but the young techies who advise the banks cannot. Third world countries often have to rely on the dollar to continue trading. Will we be forced to have a black market in dollars (risky as there are so many fakes) or the Euro. Now that would be ironic! Who benefits from this mess long term? It is too easy to seed “modern” ideas into the minds of bankers with the promise of better returns which in the end damages the whole country. Think sub-prime market fiasco for a start. There must always be an alternative fall back system when the preferred one crashes else society implodes. Are some people out there pulling these strings? Our government needs to wise up and protect us and the UK’s monetary system. Saving cash will mean saving our freedom from outside control.

Oops! I clicked send twice. Over eager as my laptop is now working after two weeks of a fused electrical circuit. Peaceful really. But no online banking, just by phone. Thank goodness for normal BT line phones. Mobile gets a rotten signal and wouldn’t trust it to keep connected in a secure banking situation. Recently our supermarket posted notices on the door “Cash only” as their system had crashed. It only lasted a day but makes you think.