U.K. Enforce Cash over Digital Currency*
By Sean Adl-Tabatabai
A credit card giant has vowed to completely eradicate cash in Britain by forcing shops and restaurants to only accept digital currency.
Visa says it wants merchants throughout the United Kingdom to begin rejecting notes and coins in order to make transactions “more secure.”
Daily Mail reports: Any switch from coins and notes to credit and debit card payments or services such as Apple Pay would also be of huge benefit to Visa, which makes money from transaction fees.
But consumer groups warned last night that it would put millions of elderly people and others who rely on cash and cheques at a huge disadvantage.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the firm should be referred to the competition authorities if it tried the move. ‘It is essentially the behaviour of a monopolist and I do not think it should happen,’ he said.
‘People should be entitled to settle their bills using legal tender. The most deprived in society who do not have bank accounts and the elderly will be most affected by this.’
Visa has already begun a trial in the U.S. which offers $10,000 (£8,800) to retailers who are prepared to update their payment terminals.
However, they can only get the deal if they agree to stop accepting cash transactions. A similar trial is expected to be launched in the U.K.
Jack Forestell, Visa’s head of global merchant solutions, told The Daily Telegraph the company had its sights on Britain.
‘We very much hope to bring a similar initiative to the U.K. in the near future,’ he said.
‘The U.K. is a bit further ahead than the U.S. in terms of contactless use and cashlessness, so the initiative may look different but watch this space.’
But James Daley, director of consumer group Fairer Finance, accused Visa of ‘bribing companies to stop using cash more quickly’ to make more money.
Consumer champion Which? said cash was still ‘widely used’ by shoppers. It added: ‘Businesses should be led by how their customers want to pay, and not by the incentives offered by card firms.’
And the Federation for Small Businesses said the proposal could make businesses unattractive to tourists who wanted to use cash and was ‘impractical’ for rural areas with slow broadband speeds.
Its chairman, Mike Cherry, said: ‘The vast majority of our members recognise the importance of offering cashless payment options. However, many have high volumes of customers that still want to pay in cash.’
In 2015 the amount of payments made electronically in Britain surpassed the number using coins and notes for the first time. However, cash was still by far the most popular way of paying in pubs, clubs and newsagents. A Treasury spokesman last night stressed that the Government remained committed to cash.
He added: ‘The U.K. leads the way in financial technology such as contactless and digital payments. It’s important that consumers have choice in how to pay for goods and services, and paying cash remains a legitimate and useful way to pay.’
Last night a spokesman for Visa said it was selecting 50 small businesses to receive $10,000 in ‘incentive funding’.
He added: ‘We hope to offer a similar challenge to those merchants who are interested in other countries, including the U.K. At this time, we do not have a firm plan on when such an initiative would be available in the U.K.’