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Cheques set to remain as abolishment plans slammed

Cheques set to remain as abolishment plans slammed

Category: Money

Updated: 14/12/2012
First Published: 24/08/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

The future of cheques seems secure after MPs slammed the attempts of the Payments Council to abolish the payment method.

A Treasury Select Committee inquiry has concluded that cheque users must be protected properly and backed the belated u-turn of the council to retain cheques.

The report also calls on the Payments Council to examine reintroducing the cheque guarantee card system that was withdrawn earlier this year.

The committee's inquiry into the decision of the council to abolish cheques by 2018 concluded that 'the industry-dominated Payments Council should no longer have the unfettered power to decide the future of cheques, or other payment methods that directly affect millions of people'.

As a result, the committee wants to see greater consumer representation on the board of the Payments Council, an immediate first step before the council can be brought within the formal regulatory system.

Despite the council's announcement last month that cheques will continue for 'as long as customers need them' and its abandoning of the 2018 deadline to close the cheque clearing system, the committee warned it must ensure that banks 'do not attempt to abandon cheques by stealth, nor deter customers from using cheques'.

Banks came under fire for giving customers the impression that the abolition of cheques was a foregone conclusion, while the council was accused of causing 'great and unnecessary concern' amongst consumers.

"Cheques have been saved, for the moment, but we need to remain vigilant," said the chairman of the committee, Andrew Tyrie.

"The incentives for the industry to get rid of cheques has not gone away.

"That is why we are making far-reaching recommendations about the future of the Payments Council as well as to secure the future of cheques."

Dr. Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said the Treasury Select Committee had struck a blow for consumers and shown the Payments Council that it must not ignore customer needs.

"Parliament should protect a payment mechanism as essential as the cheque," she added.

"Those who are housebound, disabled or who are fearful of keeping large amounts of cash, need cheques to pay their bills. Small traders and charities often rely on cheques for payment or receiving donations. Grandparents send cheques for birthdays or other gifts to their grandchildren and would not be able to do this any other way.

"Basic banking is an essential part of life. People cannot manage their money by cash or electronic means alone and cheques remain a vital part of our payment system.
It is important that, in future, such decisions will properly take into account the needs of all sections of society."

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