British retailers’ tills could soon replace cash machines across the country amid new treasury proposals aimed at protecting access to cash.
New government proposals, which will enter a six-week consultation from today, could enable customers to withdraw cash from any retailer free of charge, with no obligation to make a purchase.
It comes as the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from the use of physical cash, seeing withdrawals from cash machines drop by more than a third compared to the same period last year.
The reduced usage of cash machines has the knock-on effect of dramatically lowering the number of free-to-use cash machines across the UK, as they become less viable for businesses to operate.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) nearly 10,000 free-to-use cash machines have been lost over the past two years, while only an estimated 10,000 remain.
While the majority of the country is comfortable with the shift to digital payments, these proposals seek to protect those who still rely heavily on cash.
This group is largely made up of elderly and low income citizens who may not have access to bank accounts.
“When local shops accept and dispense cash, it is recycled through local communities and there is less need to transport and distribute notes and coins via cash centres, which reduces the associated costs,” the ministry said.
The BRC has warned that if retailers were required to invest more heavily in cash, they’d be putting themselves at far greater risk.
Its payments policy adviser Andrew Cregan said: “The government and regulators should ensure that, where cashback services are provided by retailers, there are appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that merchants are compensated fairly.
“Furthermore, government plans to allow cashback at all shops would pose challenges for retailers who would often have to hold significantly more cash than normal – putting them at an increased crime risk.”