New watchdog required to protect 25 million people who still rely on cash, says Which?
'The government is facing calls for a new regulator to protect consumers’ access to cash, following several bank IT failures and thousands of cash machine and branch closures across the UK.
The consumer group Which? said cash is still a necessity for more than 25 million people in the UK. It also noted the combined closures of cash machines and branches have left people struggling to pay for essential goods and services.
The charity is campaigning for the creation of a regulator with sole responsibility for cash infrastructure, which ensures continued access to physical money.
Jenni Allen, the managing director for Which? Money, said: “We have serious concerns that the alarming rate of cashpoint and bank branch closures risks leaving people facing an uphill battle to access the cash they rely on.
“Cash is also a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity. So the government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no one is excluded and left struggling to go about their daily lives.”
About two-thirds of the UK’s bank branches have closed in the past 30 years. Of these, about 3,300 have shut since 2015 alone. This has left one-fifth of households more than two miles from their nearest bank.
Which? also published figures showing the UK lost nearly 3,000 cash machines in the six months to December, a rate of about 488 a month. This includes 250 free-to-use machines.
Over the whole of 2018, 102 protected machines, which receive additional subsidies from major banks to help keep them running, closed in remote areas.
Which? said that despite the rise in digital payments, there was still a “real appetite” for cash, with 73% of the population frequently using it to pay for goods and services.'
Read more: Calls for regulator to ensure access to cash after bank IT failures