Three cheers for Treasury Select Committee making it clear that cheques must stay

UK Payments Council bounced into behaving better towards customers at last!

Needs of older citizens, small traders and charities must not be ignored

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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The Treasury Select Committee has just released the full report of its inquiry into the decision of the UK Payments Council to abolish cheques by 2018. It has concluded that cheque-users must be protected properly and cheques must not be withdrawn.

The report is a damning indictment of how banks have tried to ride roughshod over the needs of ordinary citizens, especially older members of society, who simply cannot manage their money without using cheques.

On any kind of objective cost-benefit analysis, the decision to abolish cheques would have failed. All the costs would fall on vulnerable consumers, businesses and charities, while all the benefits would have accrued to large financial institutions. But, as the banking interests dominate the UK Payments Council, the customer perspective gets lost.

The Treasury Select Committee, under the Chairmanship of Andrew Tyrie, has struck a blow for consumers and shown the Payments council that it must not ignore customer needs. Parliament should protect a payment mechanism as essential as the cheque.

Those who are housebound, disabled or who are fearful of keeping large amounts of cash, need cheques to pay their bills. Small traders and charities often rely on cheques for payment or receiving donations. Grandparents send cheques for birthday or other gifts to their grandchildren and would not be able to do this any other way.

The Treasury Select Committee is absolutely right to call for better representation of customers on the UK Payments Council, in order to ensure that their voices are heard and banking policy decisions will, in future, take the views and needs of all customers into account.

Basic banking is an essential part of life. People cannot manage all their money by cash or electronic means and cheques remain a vital part of our payment system. It is important that, in future, such decisions will properly take into account the needs of all sections of society.


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