FCA/PSR: Pockets of vulnerability remain but most UK consumers have reasonable access to cash
Research commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority and the UK’s Payment Systems Regulator finds that – contrary to popular belief – most people have reasonable access to cash through a combination of bank, building society, or Post Office branches and ATMs.
The withdrawal of bank branches and free-to-use ATMs on Britain’s high streets alongside a mass-market switch to contactless payments has raised concerns that vulnerable consumers who rely on cash are being left behind.
Consumer research conducted by the regulatory bodies finds that there remains a broad spectrum of consumers – typically on low incomes or in ill-health – who contine to rely on easy to access cash.
Sheldon Mills, executive director, consumers and competition at the FCA says “Around 5 million adults say they still rely on cash, and we know that where access is removed, it can affect the most vulnerable in society. This is why we have intervened in the past to provide banks with guidance on what to consider when closing branches.
Both the FCA and PSR have issued edicts to banks and national ATM operator Link to ensure fair treatments for customers when branches and ATMs are closed.
The UK is also conducting a number of access to cash pilot programmes, including shared branch models and universal retail cashback services.
The UK Treasury has additionally launched a consultation on establishing geographic requirements for the provision of cash withdrawal and deposit facilities, the designation of firms for meeting these requirements, and establishing further regulatory oversight of cash service provision.
Says Mills: “We expect firms to help protect access to cash and wider banking services in ways that meet consumers’ needs, and we continue to engage with firms closing their branches, to ensure that they treat their customers fairly. We will also review over the coming months how we can strengthen our guidance to help protect reasonable access to cash and banking services.’
She says the FCA and the PSR will continue to work with Government to prepare for legislation, and with industry and other stakeholders on cash access issues. The FCA intends to update on the next steps on its work in Q4 this year.