Paper-based alternative for cheques is needed, says Payments Council chair

Richard North tells Treasury Committee on cheque abolition that work is taking place on two alternatives

Cheques are to be abolished
Cheques are to be abolished

Cheques should not be abolished until a paper-based alternative is in place, according to Richard North, chair of the Payments Council.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Treasury Committee on the proposed abolition of cheques, North, whose organisation oversees payment systems, said work was taking place on two alternatives to the cheque, which is due to be abolished in 2018.

North said one alternative was a mobile payments platform and the other was a paper-based solution. "Until we have actually got in place a paper-based solution that has the flexibility and ease of use of cheques, then we should not be abolishing cheques," he said.

Asked whether the Payments Council had done a cost-benefit analysis on the abolition of cheques, North said the foundations for doing one were in place but it should not be done until the council knew what the alternatives to the cheque were going to be.

North admitted that the council had not put across its message in a very clear way. "I regret that we have failed to get our message across and that has created concern," he told MPs. "Do I think it could have been done better? Of course."

Louise Richards, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, told Third Sector that until she saw what the paper-based alternative to cheques would be, it would be hard to tell whether it would be adequate."But if it's going to be paper-based, then why would they abolish cheques?" she said.

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Directors' Group, said it was vital that inconsistent messaging about the abolition of cheques stopped.

"A major concern we have with the target end date for cheques is that many cheque users have been led to believe that withdrawal is definitely going ahead, when in fact it has always been conditional, based on certain criteria being met in 2016," she said.

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