The Access to Cash Enquiry - a Wasted Opportunity?

Posted on: 21/03/2019

The Access to Cash Enquiry - funded by the LINK ATM Network but intended to be independent - started with such high hopes, but ended up flawed.
Members of the Enquiry Panel were given the opportunity to safeguard cash as a UK Payment Choice FOREVER, but let it slip away.
Where did it go wrong?
Firstly, with the composition of the Panel. No genuine and knowledgeable supporter of cash as a Payment Choice was selected - BUT several people who are closely associated with the financial services Establishment WERE included.
Another significant failure of the Enquiry was to focus almost exclusively on those who NEED to use cash, rather than on people who CHOOSE to use it. The implication of this focus is that it is only a relatively small number of “unfortunates” who have any use for cash. Which is TOTAL RUBBISH.
The Enquiry compounded this error by spending many pages rabbiting on about digital innovation. The implication here was that those “unfortunates” who NEED to use cash could all soon be saved from their awful position by digital innovation. Those who do NOT want to be saved are conveniently forgotten.
The Panel knelt at the Altar of Digital Innovation. Those who are truly up for the fight of maintaining Payment Choice bend their knee to no one.
The next flaw of the Enquiry was to buy into the anti-cash vested interest line of associating cash with crime. This was an unforgivable mistake.
Having fallen into the “ cash/crime” trap, the Panel then stumbled into another by declaring that cash is “expensive”, without offering any comparisons to justify the claim.
In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
For example, LINK have conceded that, per ATM transaction, cash in the UK may well be the cheapest to provide in Europe.
Also, the British Retail Consortium each year produces statistics revealing cash is the cheapest payment method for shops to process.
In short, there is NO evidence cash is expensive in the UK.
Other failures? Almost every example they quote, where they give credit of any kind , from Swedish ATMs to Transport for London, is a complete misinterpretation of the impact - negative impact - on the Public Interest.
Frankly, if the Enquiry Panel had been deliberately trying to get it wrong, they could hardly have made more errors.
The failures of the Enquiry don’t stop there but I don’t want to rival Tolstoy on the subject, so let’s leap to the very end of the report, where we find their, at best, tepid recommendations.
The first of their five recommendations is that “access to cash” should be guaranteed. So far so good. However, they then waffle on about possible alternatives to access to cash at ATMs. NONE OF THESE IS AT ALL CREDIBLE.
The Enquiry should have DEMANDED legislative protection to guarantee public and business access to cash at ATMs. Their failure to do so is SHOCKING.
The second recommendation of the Enquiry focuses on cash acceptance. Despite international examples of legislation protecting cash acceptance, the Chair of the Enquiry states that she is “sceptical” about legislation working due to resistance from strong “commercial interests”.
What a truly bizarre conclusion to reach. It is BECAUSE there are strong anti-cash commercial interests at work that we NEED legislation to guarantee the acceptance of cash for payment.
Just about the only decent recommendation coming out of the Enquiry is the one asking that the LINK Universal ATM Cash Deposit transaction is adopted by every card issuer. This would allow cash to be deposited at ANY ATM in the UK. In the absence of bank branches, this is a vital innovation for both the public and businesses wishing to conveniently deposit cash.
To sum up my view on the Access to Cash Enquiry?
If you want to read what REALLY needs to be done, you can read The Charter for Payment Choice HERE

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