Most UK consumers ‘have reasonable access to cash’, FCA & PSR report finds

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) have revealed that most people in the UK have “reasonable access to cash” through a combination of banks, building societies, or Post Office branches and ATMs.

The two organisations have published a report which takes into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside new research on consumers who rely on cash.

The FCA and PSR have estimated that 95.4% of the UK population are within 2km of a free cash access point and 99.7% are within 5km.

Consumers’ ability to access banking services and cash can be affected when bank and ATM providers make decisions to close branches and cash machines.

In September 2020 the FCA published guidance on how it expects firms to approach branch and ATM closures or conversions to make sure their customers are treated fairly. In May 2021 the FCA and PSR published a joint statement on their work to date and reaffirmed its expectations for the industry at the Which? cash summit.

The PSR recently published its second annual review of Specific Direction 8 (SD8) which ensures LINK does all it can to make free-to-use ATMs available for UK consumers. It has decided that SD8 should remain in place until it expires in January 2022. The PSR will continue to monitor LINK’s commitment and how it is being met. The PSR is currently considering whether to issue a new direction to replace SD8 when it expires.  

Since then, the Treasury has 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.

Sheldon Mills, executive director, consumers and competition at the FCA, said: “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.”

“Our research shows that most of the UK population have reasonable access to cash: 95.4% are within 2km of a free cash access point. But there are still pockets of consumers, some displaying characteristics of vulnerability, who do not have sufficient access to cash.

“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.” 

The FCA and the PSR will continue to work with the 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.

Tags: FCA

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