COVID-19 further raises the issue of accessibility of retail payment
On 6 July, the members of the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) – among which AGE – discussed the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic on retail payments – both electronic payment means and cash – in Europe. A relative increase in the share of contactless point-of-sale payments and online payments, as well as a strong decline in cash withdrawals after an initial surge in the demand for cash at the start of the pandemic, were observed. On behalf of AGE, Anne-Sophie Parent highlighted the challenges faced by older consumers when suddenly retail shops only accepted digital payment means through fear that cash could help spread the virus. Yet laboratory studies have shown that banknotes do not represent a particularly significant risk of infection compared with other payment methods.
The ERPB acknowledged that access to cash is a relevant concern and may become a crucial issue in the light of pandemic-related developments. Taking note that various initiatives had been launched to address similar concerns outside the ERPB, the group agreed that further analysis at ERPB level needs to rely on the latest data on cash usage and the outcome of the relevant Eurosystem activities in this area (e.g. measurement of access to cash). The ERPB agreed that another update on access to cash should be given at their next meeting, including a presentation by the European Central Bank on the forthcoming “Study on the payment attitudes of consumers in the euro area” (SPACE). This update could serve as the basis for identifying any gaps that may warrant further work on access to cash at the ERPB level.
The ERPB also took note of the presentation by BEUC (European Consumers’ Bureau) outlining the drawbacks of a cashless society for consumers and recommended actions to ensure continued access to cash (see link below to BEUC presentation which AGE supported).
Digtial payment: need for improved transparency
The ERPB also covered the issue of transparency for retail payment end-users. The ERPB’s objective is to help consumers identify easily to whom, where and when they made a payment. Many older consumers struggle to reconcile digital payments they have made to some shops and the names that appear on their bank statement, in particular now that many shops no longer hand over paper receipts of the digital payment transactions.
Article by Anne-Sophie Parent