Cash is dying, contactless is king – we’ve heard it so many times. Voices in the payment industry and the media are quick to decry the end of cash payments. Talk of the cashless society (Brett Scott, 19 July) is ubiquitous. In their enthusiasm, many forget that a cashless future is far from certain.
Your article argues that Washington DC’s move to make it illegal not to accept cash will protect the 10% of its citizens who remain unbanked. This issue isn’t US specific. The UK has 1.5 million unbanked citizens, who rely on cash payments to partake in society. Reports show that cash is still one of our favourite payment methods, with many using it as a budgeting tool. Moving towards cashless payments would devastate the livelihoods of our most vulnerable, and go against the preferences of UK consumers.
Even Sweden, previously leading the move towards cashless, is reconsidering its move away from cash. In February, the governor of the Swedish Riksbank warned that all payment methods could soon be controlled by private sector banks. A central Swedish movement called Cash Rebellion backs him up and argues that going fully digital bears too many risks. An influx of recent IT problems among banks and payment providers in the UK and globally has shown that they are right to call for an analogue alternative. Central banks need to ensure they can provide a regulated payment system that can withstand IT issues.
John Harris explains how much electricity our mobile phones use (17 July) and Brett Scott explains why the financial industry is pushing for a cashless, ie electronic, society. It is now virtually impossible to access any statutory body without going online – tax returns, social security applications, driving licence changes et al.
I wonder how many people who make the decisions that speed up this trend towards society’s total dependence on electricity, including the internet, are aware of the fascinating examination of the effect of a total power loss on our infrastructure conducted after Storm Desmond caused the whole of the city of Lancaster to lose its electricity supply for 30 hours.
Every aspect of modern life was affected: no ATMs, no electronic payments, no internet, no phone access, no lighting in streets or buildings, no freezers or fridges, no television, radio or DAB services, no domestic heating or cooking. It doesn’t seem particularly sensible for us to allow ourselves to become so dependent on just one source of power in so many aspects of our lives, no matter how convenient it might be.