Which? believes the government must act quickly to ensure that consumers can continue to access their cash easily and free of charge. We believe that the choice of payment methods should be driven by consumer needs and not supplier interests. For as long as people need cash, the required infrastructure should remain in place. We are currently concerned that the decline in cash usage may be driven by industry interests, such as profits made by card companies, rather than consumer need or demand.
Cash remains immensely popular and important for consumers. Which? research shows that almost three quarters of adults in the UK say they use cash at least once or twice a week, compared to only one in 20 who say they use cash once every three months or less.
Without a wider strategy for cash, the closure of bank branches, post offices and ATMs could mean the UK reaches a point where maintaining the current system of free-to-access cash is no longer viable. There are also potential risks to all UK consumers and businesses if we no longer have a sustainable cash network. Recent IT failures at RBS, for example, have highlighted that the distribution of cash can be a critical national infrastructure, and often the only viable alternative if a consumer or business cannot make an electronic payment.
That is why Which? is calling on the Government to take urgent action to protect cash by placing a duty on a regulator to protect access to cash and to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s cash infrastructure. This would:
- Support consumer choice
- Prevent financial exclusion
- Ensure there remains access to a secure non-digital form of payment
- Promote effective competition across all payments
Which? was quoted in the Access to Cash Interim Report saying:
"As cash use is declining, innovation and changes in the market may be needed to provide an affordable, secure and sustainable cash infrastructure. Without swift action, the necessary protections and changes in the market might not be achieved in time to protect consumers from harm."
In order to find out more about consumer attitudes towards cash for our submission, Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2076 UK adults online between the 7th and 9th September 2018. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of the population. The full dataset can be found here.
Our main findings are included in our response below: