Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Questions (54)

Willie Penrose


54. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a report by an organisation (details supplied) which states that moving to a cashless society mainly benefits banks and card issuers and will lead to financial and social exclusion; his plans to ensure consumers have a continued non-discriminatory right to use cash; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46553/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

My officials were aware of the publication of this report. This report presents the case that consumers should have a right to access and use cash alongside electronic and innovative means of payment, and analyses the possible consequences for consumers of the total disappearance of cash.

The report makes a number of recommendations concerning the acceptance of cash by physical traders, the availability of ATMs within Member States, charges imposed on consumers when using ATMs, and the promotion of cashback in shops.

Earlier this year I launched a study benchmarking Ireland’s payment industry, which was commissioned by my Department in 2018. This study found that, notwithstanding a significant increase in the take-up of electronic payments, cash remains a vital part of the Irish payment system. The study also concluded that a fully cashless society would not be an appropriate objective.

In relation to the specific recommendations set out in the report referred to by the Deputy, the quarterly Payments Monitor published by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland shows that while the volume of ATM withdrawals has remained stable in recent years, the value of cash withdrawn from ATMs has recently been growing and is up 5.7 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019.

The report finds that cashback in shops is currently only common practice in 11 EU Member States and recommends that it be promoted. Ireland, of course, is one of those 11 Member States, with cashback a long and well-established practice in this jurisdiction.

There certainly has been a notable increase in the use of electronic payments, particularly in contactless payments, over the last decade. In recent years there is also evidence of greater financial inclusion. The CSO Household Budget Survey Data shows that the proportion of households with access to a current account in Ireland has increased significantly. The EU Payment Account Directive, transposed in 2016, makes it easier for consumers who do not have a payment account to open one, whatever their personal financial situation.

My officials will continue to monitor developments in the area of payments.