/ Money

We need an independent review on scrapping cheques

Close-up of cheque and pen

From the strength of opinion here on Which? Conversation, we know that abolishing the cheque is unpopular, so it’s good that the enquiry’s been reopened. But we need to take it further and have an independent review.

Every time we mention cheques in our Conversations it shows just how popular they still are. It also shows us the strength of feeling that exists against the abolition of the cheque.

Well, it seems those folks at the Treasury Select Committee may read Which? Conversation as they have re-opened their enquiry into the abolition of the cheque.

The consultation so far…

At is stands, the decision to abolish the cheque will be made by the Payments Council. They have held lots of consultations and worked with a huge range of stakeholders, (including Which?) to:

  • Analyse where cheques are still used.
  • Assess what impact, if any, abolishing the cheque may have.
  • Come up with alternative payment methods that could be introduced.

This has been a very collaborative process and we are happy to be a part of it. However, the decision on whether or not to abolish the cheque will still ultimately be made by the Payments Council.

Their decision-making process is largely dominated by industry. This can often mean that vital interests of consumers, such as Faster Payments, are not properly pushed forward. So I have to question whether the Payments Council can ensure that adequate cheque substitutes are in place if, and when, the cheque is phased-out.

Why we want an independent review

The final decision to abolish cheques should be taken out of the hands of the Payments Council and instead it should be made following an independent review. This should consider whether the proposed alternatives to be in place by 2018 are suitable, cost-effective, accessible and safe to use for consumers.

We’re not wedded to the cheque, and understand the arguments behind scrapping it. But it would be foolhardy to scrap the cheque unless suitable replacements are in place – and an independent review would be the best way to do this. What do you think?

Erica says:
12 June 2011

Only the banks want to abolish cheques. Electronic banking is extremely lucrative for banks and we will all be locked into this if we allow cheques to be abolished. I personally use cheques on plenty of occasions for my sons school dinners, school uniform, school trips. Also convenient for paying the milkman, workmen who do jobs at my house, sending birthday presents for children; cannot send cash in the post. The company I work for still has numerous customers who pay by cheque. For a lot of small businesses losing the ability to accept payment by cheque will mean they will have to increase their charges to pay for the additional costs they will have to pay the banks.


One point about the cheque is that the amount of money to be drawn from ones bank account is FIXED by the signatory. It is very difficult to fraudulently alter this. I was a computer engineer for 26 years and ultimately there is NOTHING electronic that cannot be altered, manipulated or compromised.
Second point. Systems based on electricity are inherently failure prone. I know several people who use internet banking and have had either virusses or system failures which have deprived them of the means to survive – temporarily perhaps – but the cheque system worked before electronics and still works. Deliberate fraud is not avoided by electronics, nor are automatic systems any more secure than the word of the individual; if you have the brass face to pass a worthless cheque you can do it – if you want to misuse a credit card you can do it just as easily and a stolen credit card is just as useful to a thief as a stolen cheque, perhaps more so.
Thirdly. The only advantage on getting rid of the cheque is to the banks. It allows them to have even more control over their customers and will allow them to continue to substitute machinery for employees, reduce the numbers of branch banks and put people out of work. Who will pay for the unemployed? Not the banks, not with the governments we have had for the past five years, all of whom have been unable to prevent bank officials making obscene profits and bonus payments gambling with their customers money and driving the world economy into the red.

PaTrick says:
12 June 2011

The main reason for the use of cheques having been reduced appears to be because retailers, especially the supermarkets and other chain stores, (aided by the banks) have decided to refuse them as methods of payment.
The withdrawal of the Cheque Guarantee Scheme is something that may reduce still further the use of these helpful slips of paper. The Cheque Guarantee should be reinstated and extended to a higher amount – say £200 or more. (I thought years ago that the limit was way too low and needed to be increased.)
There are a lot of technophobes out there who either cannot or will not use electronic means of cash transfer. What, other than cash, would do the job that cheques manage so effectively?
As evidence of the trouble that many older people have with technology may I point to the decision of the pensions people to force the elderly to use PIN machines to withdraw cash from the Post Office? I have frequently seen our local Postmistress come around from behind the counter in order to assist those who continue to be befuddled by the “new” technology.

Stephen R says:
12 June 2011

Cheques (in one form or another) have been in use for centuries so they are part of our everyday life. However, I think we will have to accept that their days are numbered as they are an outmoded form of payment. I probably use no more than 1 every month or so and in each case there will be an alternate method of payment. It is also a fact that the cost of transmitting cheques through the banking system is horribly expensive. Would people using cheques be prepared to pay the full cost of their use? I doubt it. In addition, they are no more secure than other payment methods; they are, after all, a negotiable instrument and great care has to be taken when completing them to ensure that the drawer is protected. Change is always difficult to accept and many people will carp about the demise of cheques simply because it is change and they are reluctant to lose something so familiar. If they are scrapped, I shall not miss them.

John Magee says:
12 June 2011

I find that in certain circumstances cheques are extremely useful and although I use other forms of finance for transactions more frequently I use and receive cheques regularly in circumstances where card or electronic transactions would not be either appropriate or available. Cheques must be retained.

Anne Blackwood says:
12 June 2011

I run a small homebased business and choose not to have the extra expense of processing cards.
I object to being put in the position of not even being able to accept cheques off my customers.
I am very annoyed that the banks have scrapped the cheque guarantee system, since while you have cheques as a trader, I am more comfortable with having the option of making sure the cheques I receive will not bounce. What justification have the banks for not keeping that side of it going if cheques are still used, and why were they allowed to do it with such a feeble excuse as @its not really used nowadays@ – while cheques are written there will ALWAYS be a need to guarantee them.

CJ says:
12 June 2011

As the banks have done so much damage to us so far, is it not time they listened to us and keep cheques. They enable us “tiny” people to manage our money efficiently and without going into debt


I hope they get the message that not everyone (including my elderly parents) are on or know how to use the internet, and nor do all establishments/businesses take plastic. These things seem so often to be London- or other major conurbation-focussed.

Caroline says:
12 June 2011

Just adding my support to keeping cheques. I am 56, and am reasonably computer/technology literate, and for example am happy to pay for things electronically from known suppliers, using my laptop. I have a mobile phone and plan to update it to a new model soon. However, I suppose I am on the borderline between those who are not so comfortable with new technology, and those who have grown up with it. The sorts of things I use a cheque for are: household services such as gardening and cleaning; health-related services such as acupuncture; leisure activities such as yoga, walking group and choir membership. I also use cheques to pay tickets for theatre trips by post; paying off credit card bills; hairdresser visits. As others have said, small businesses, such as those I freqently use, would not want a card system due to the cost, and I certainly don’t want to have to carry around large sums of cash to make these types of payments.

It may be that new solutions will be found for this by the banks, but I think cheques should be kept in the meanwhile (and without additional costs being slapped on by the banks for the privilege of using them) for those of us who prefer this way of doing things. If I’ in my 50’s and prefer cheques for certian kinds of transactions, then I image there are hu