The Deputy will be aware that the use of card payments, particularly contactless payments, has been encouraged in order to support public health policy following the outbreak of Covid-19 this year.
There has been a notable increase in the use of electronic payments during the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures released by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland show that daily contactless spending reached a new monthly high of €27.7 million in June of this year. The Central Bank’s payment statistics show that E-commerce expenditure for July was 16% higher than in the same month last year.
Notwithstanding a significant increase in electronic payments, cash remains a vital part of the Irish payment system and also helps to reduce financial exclusion across Ireland. A study undertaken by the Department of Finance in 2019 concluded that a fully cashless society would not be an appropriate policy objective.
As we continue to adapt to Covid-19, I am aware that a small number of retailers are choosing to only accept card and contactless payments in store. I understand that this may cause difficultly for consumers who do not have access to debit or credit card facilities. However, where retailers are accepting a limited range of payment options, consumers must be informed of the payment options available in advance of a transaction. This can be achieved by displaying signs at the store till or entrance. If a retailer does not clearly specify in advance of a transaction the means of payment they are prepared to accept, they must accept cash.
Since 2016 banks offering payment accounts are required to offer an account with basic features free of charge for at least one year to consumers who do not already have a bank account. These basic features include a debit card, direct debits and the ability to pay for goods and services online.
This means that unbanked customers in any part of the country are able to open a bank account whatever their personal financial situation. I would encourage anyone without access to an account to contact a bank about opening a basic bank account.