Access to cash law must guard against financial exclusion

23 January 2024

Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Ged Nash TD has said the government’s plan to provide a legal obligation on shops and pharmacies to accept cash from customers is welcome. However, he warned that the scope of the legislation may need to be broadened to guard against financial exclusion.

Deputy Nash said:

“Legislating for the status of cash was a key ask of Labour in our detailed submission to the review on retail banking.

“Moves to provide ongoing legal certainty around the kinds of businesses that will be required to continue to accept cash transactions will be welcomed by both customers and business owners and managers.

“As it stands at the moment the question of cash is one of contract law and under certain circumstances business can declare that they will not accept cash although it is legal tender.

“While I might be comfortable and capable of transacting business online, there are still thousands of citizens who aren’t and who prefer for personal budgeting and other reasons to pay with cash. Our new laws should accommodate and the new legislation should be as broad as possible.

“Where viable and cost-effective, as many sectors as is feasible should come under the scope of the proposed legislation and a firm commitment must be given by Government on when we can expect to see the belated national financial literacy strategy to be rolled out.

“Ireland performs relatively poorly when it comes to financial and digital literacy and financial wellbeing and inclusion.

“Government must proceed carefully and the steps it takes must be mindful of aggravating the phenomenon of financial exclusion.”

Deputy Nash has also said that he welcomes moves to ensure that third-party ATM and cash-in-transit operators will in future come under the aegis of the Central Bank for certain regulatory purposes.

“Key to this will be a commitment to providing functioning and 24/7 accessible ATM services across the country and a requirement to ensure that there is access to low denomination notes in all machines.

“While the evidence is clear – the use of cash is going down along with the frequency of ATM use – measures are required to ensure that the continuing social need for access to cash is enshrined in law and the government’s moves in this direction are to be welcomed. It’s crucial for the acceptance of cash to ensure fair participation in the economy.”

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