UK Backflip on Plans to Scrap Cheques
Thursday, 14th July 2011 at 10:45 am
The UK Payments Council has done a backflip on the controversial move to abolish cheques and has cancelled its 2018 target to scrap the paper based-payment method after an enormous public and Not for Profit campaign.
The Payments Council has announced that cheques will continue for as long as customers need them.
The move comes just as Australia has begun its own investigation into the future of cheques. Public consultations into the future of the use of cheques began last month with submissions still open until the end of July.
The Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA), the payments industry self-regulatory body, says while cheque numbers have been steadily declining for more than a decade, Reserve Bank of Australia figures show that cheque use in Australia has declined by more than 35% in the last four years. The total number of cheques in use in Australia has dropped from 437 million in 2006 to 276 million in 2010.
The UK backflip follows months of discussion and a re-opening of the debate in the UK Parliament after a public outcry and a strong campaign led by the Not for Profit sector.
The Chairman of the Payments Council, Richard North, says listening to over 600 stakeholder groups, working with the banks and following their appearance before the Treasury Select Committee, they have concluded that they should reassure customers that the cheque is staying.
The Council says it specifically prioritised the needs of older people, small businesses and the charitable and voluntary sector.
The UK Not for Profit sector has welcomed the move including the UK Charities Aid Foundation.
CAF says that in its own situation the CAF Bank received 1.7m cheques worth £471m in 2010/11 financial year representing 86 percent of all CAF Bank deposits over that period.
In Australia the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA) says the approach on cheques here is not like the UK’s.
The APCA says while it has noted the decision by the UK Payments Council to cancel the proposed closure of UK cheque clearing in 2018 in response to community and political but its approach on cheques is very different from what happened in the UK.
It says the APCA launched a public consultation process to ensure that as cheques become scarcer and inevitably more difficult to use, community payment needs continue to be met.
The Australian Not for Profit sector revealed the importance of donations via cheques as part of their fundraising efforts in Pro Bono Australia’s recent online Snap Poll.
The online poll found that more than 88% of survey participants say cheques are an important part of their continuing fundraising efforts across Australia. As many as 61.3% describe cheques as extremely important. (https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2011/06/nfps-urge-importance-cheques)
Where the UK proposed a date to abolish cheque clearing, APCA says it is drawing attention to the emerging problem for Australian cheque users – that others won’t want to write or accept cheques – and undertaking extensive community and stakeholder consultation to understand why cheques remain important for certain members of the community.
CEO of APCA, Chris Hamilton says the goal is to understand how the payments system can better serve these people as cheque usage disappears over time and the consultation is about pointing out and managing a social problem before it becomes serious.
Hamilton says no one is talking about closing anything, but if the problem is discussed now, it can be dealt with in a sensible, practical and convenient way.
He says the consultation process will help identify why certain consumers and businesses are still using cheques when other safe, efficient and cost effective payment options are available.
He says he has been very happy with the public response so far and while there are many people who still love their cheques, most people recognise what is happening and understand the need to explore the issue.
Information about the consultation including the Consultation
Paper is available at www.apca.com.au/consultation. Submissions are due by 29 July 2011.