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15th July 2011

UK Banks give up on cheque abolishment idea

The Payments Council announced this week that its members, which include all the major UK banks, had cancelled the proposal to end the use of cheques in October 2018. The plan created a wave of anger and criticism by members of the public and many politicians joined campaigning against the move. This included heavy criticism from the influential Treasury Select Committee. Assurances by the Payments Council that it would develop, promote and educate the public on alternatives was insufficient. Later the Council revised its position to 2018 being a target date and that the date would be dependent on the majority of current cheque users being satisfied with alternatives. After its first declaration this was considered an inadequate response.


The campaigning continued and the Council admitted defeat, or in its terms " Listening to over 600 stakeholder groups, working with the banks and following our appearance before the Treasury Select Committee, we have concluded we should reassure customers that the cheque is staying."


The Council faced two problems. It could not tell current cheque users what alternatives would be in place in 2018. Secondly, the suggestion of services such as mobile banking, internet banking and P2P services was considered of little use by some businesses and most charities. The charities reported that 60% of their income is still from cheques. A significant proportion of mail order business is settled by cheque also.


It remains possible that cheques may be abolished in 2018 or before. However it was very naive to announce the move before proven, popular and practical in all situations to all users of cheques were in place.