Cheques to be bounced into history in UK

Cheques to be bounced into history in UK

The phasing out of cheques has led to intense concern among groups representing senior citizens. Getty Images

Cheques cost up to £1 each to process — and the number written has been falling steadily. As recently as 2002, a typical consumer in Britain was writing 31 cheques a year, but the number fell to 14 by 2008.

Big stores such as Marks & Spencer have already stopped taking cheques, and the Payments Council, which sets strategy for UK payments in Britain, says they are now used for fewer than one in 25 purchases.

Scandinavian countries and Ireland have already voted to phase out cheques, and a board meeting of the Payments Council will set an “end date” of 2018 for cheque clearing in Britain.

It wants consumers to switch to cheaper and faster electronic payment processing and says it will use the eight-year transitional period to ensure alternative arrangements are put in place.

“Mapping out how the UK might move to a society where, by 2018, there is no need to use a cheque for any type of payment is no small task,” said council spokeswoman Sandra Quinn.

“Even if the board decides to set a target date, we are clear that we would need to continue to engage with as many other bodies as possible to understand their concerns and requirements.

“The demise of the cheque in 2018 is only feasible if interim targets are set and met and it can be demonstrated that no one will lose out,” she added.

But, the phasing out of cheques has led to intense concern among groups representing senior citizens. Many elderly bank customers are unhappy about online banking, or have sight difficulties and prefer the comfort of using cheques.

Neil Duncan-Jordan, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “Using a cheque to settle your financial affairs is extremely important to older pensioners who might struggle in later life with the use of chip and pin.

“This option is effectively removing choice from a whole section of the population. The representatives of the Payments Council are completely out of touch with the needs of older consumers and need to think again.”

Age Concern and Help the Aged say that 6.4 million over-65s have never used the internet, and the loss of cheques will force older people to keep large amounts of cash at home, leaving them vulnerable to theft and fraud.

Small businesses point out that, despite the decline, there are still 1.4 billion cheques written every year by individuals and businesses to pay bills, traders or family members.

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