'Older people rely on cheques'
Age UK responds to the Treasury select committee report on the future of cheques.
The Treasury select committee's report was headed 'the future of cheques', but its recommendations on the future of payments regulation will have a lasting impact. The committee called on the Treasury to confirm whether the current draft Financial Services Bill contains powers that would allow the new Financial Conduct Authority to intervene to protect bank customers by preventing cheques being withdrawn. If it does not, the committee recommends that the government consider the case for inserting such provisions in the bill.
This call for regulation is particularly significant coming from a committee which has been so vocal in calling for enhanced competition in the banking sector. However, the committee makes clear that competition shouldn't be for the benefit of the industry alone. Its statement that 'payments systems must be capable of taking advantage of innovation in the consumer interest' could be applied equally to the whole of the retail banking sector.
The Financial Conduct Authority approach document, currently out for comment, goes some way to redress the imbalance in power between banks and the consumer. However, the suggestions for payments regulation challenge the government to go further.
Cheques and other payment systems are essential services upon which the public relies, especially older people. Their future must not be left solely to the banking industry and its representative bodies to determine. The banking industry must be clear about what it is going to do to ensure that cheques remain a widely accepted, safe and accessible option for those who rely on them.
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