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A number of Census Financial clients have recently expressed concern at the looming demise of the cheque. If, like them, you are alarmed that our trusty cheques (the first of which was written 350 years ago) could be abolished within seven years, then we have good news - a reprieve may be on its way.
The UK Payments Council made the case for scrapping cheques in 2009, claiming they were no longer financially viable and should be phased out by 2018. But following a flood of complaints by consumers, small businesses, action groups and ‘Outraged from Tunbridge Wells’, the Treasury Select Committee has reopened its enquiry into the future of the cheque.
In making its recommendation, the Payments Council had said that the cheque should be axed because its use is in terminal decline, falling some 10% year-on-year as businesses and consumers switch to online payments, as well as increased use of debit and credit cards. Cheques are the most expensive form of transaction for shops and some retailers such as Shell, ASDA and Sainsbury’s no longer accept them. In light of this, the Payments Council said that with the use of cheques rapidly dwindling, an alternative method of payment should be found.
This approach overlooks some bold facts. For example, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau, 340,000 people still receive their benefits by cheques through the post and a number of cheques would still be in circulation in 2018. It also ignores the fact that the people who still only use cheques are dispersed across the UK and are not refined to a specific group.
Age Concern and Help the Aged have expressed concern about potential security issues if cheques are phased out. They believe it would encourage people to return to cash, with the elderly being forced to keep large sums of money at home. In addition, at present there are 6.4 million people aged over 65 who do not have access to the internet. This prevents them using other payment methods.
It now seems that the Treasury Committee is taking these factors into consideration and will make a decision on the future of cheques in 2016. However, this could be deferred further, if no alternative has been found by this date.
For concise, impartial analysis and advice about of your personal finances, call the Census Financial team on 028 9066 8700.