Digital retail payments backlash reaches UK as chancellor warned cashless society will “put our economy at risk”

The UK’s shift towards a cashless economy is threatening to “leave millions behind or put our economy at risk” as our cash system nears collapse.

A new report from a group called ‘Access to Cash Review’ has urged the new chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak to include measures to protect access to physical cash in the upcoming March budget.

According to the report more than 8 million people in the UK still rely on cash for day-to-day transactions and would struggle in a digital cashless society.

This mirrors sentiment from the US where cashless stores like Amazon’s Go grocery chain have been banned in numerous states, most recently in New York City.

READ MORE: New York bans cashless stores in major blow to digital retail payments

“The UK is fast becoming a cashless society – without knowing what this really means for consumers or for the UK economy,” head of the Access to Cash Review and former head of Financial Ombudsman Service Natalie Ceeney said.

“Many people may want a completely digital future, but we need to make sure that this shift doesn’t leave millions behind or put our economy at risk.”

Retailers including Sainsbury’s and Tesco have been experimenting with the a shift to cashless and cashierless stores for some time while analysts predict that cash will account for just one in 10 payments by 2030.

Last year’s ‘UK Payment Markets Report’ found that cash payments fell 16 per cent in 2018, accounting for just 28 per cent of payments compared to 60 per cent in 2008.

However the decline of access to free-to-use cash machines, which saw a 13 per cent drop in numbers last year, is “already starting to exclude people” the group said.

Consumer watchdog Which?’s Jenny Ross added: “Without legislation many more communities will be cut off from cash or forced to pay hefty fees to access their own money.

“The new chancellor must seize this opportunity and guarantee long-term access to cash in the budget, while developing a clear strategy to ensure that the transition to digital payments doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

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