Press release

About time too - Treasury committee calls for consumers to be properly considered by the big banks

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Payments council told to review decision to withdraw cheque guarantee cards and cheque abolition by stealth!

Saga, the over 50s organisation which has campaigned for the retention of cheques, welcomes recommendations for their future protection.

The Treasury Select Committee has just released the full report of its inquiry into the decision of the UK Payments Council to abolish cheques by 2018. "The report is a damning indictment of how banks have tried to ride roughshod over the needs of ordinary citizens, especially older people, who simply cannot manage their money without using cheques – and underpins the view that the banks are simply out of touch," said Dr Ros Altmann, director general of the Saga Group.

Saga research shows that more than 70% of over-65s disagreed with the abolition of cheques, and 18% of over-75s did not know how they would manage or definitely would not be able to pay all their bills without cheques. They will all be delighted that a committee of MPs is standing up strongly for them.

Those who are housebound, disabled or who worry about carrying around large amounts of cash, rely on cheques to pay their bills and many of them have written to Saga pleading for a reversal of this decision. Older people often do not trust electronic cards and pin numbers and would be at risk if they have to give these to someone else to make payments. They manage their finances by the use of cheque books, to keep a record of their account balances and reconcile them regularly, something they’d be unable to do without a written payment record.

Small traders and charities often rely on cheques for payment of their bills or receiving donations. Grandparents send cheques for birthday or other gifts to their grandchildren and would not be able to do this any other way.

“It is a shame that it took the might of the Treasury Select Committee to force a change of heart. It’s now crystal clear that the UK Payments Council - made up mostly of banks – needs representation from a much wider cross-section of society: those affected by banking policy, not just those affecting banking policy. Continued Dr Altmann.

"Saga is delighted to see the treasury select committee flexing it's muscle to protect bank customers. It's also delighted with the further recommendations to consider the reintroduction of cheque guarantee cards, proper regulation of the UK payments council, parliamentary oversight of decisions regarding cheques and proper consumer representation on the UK payments council itself."

- Ends -


Saga has had numerous letters from pensioners asking for our help to save the cheques. Here is a selection of what they have written:

'Typical misinformation is contained in my local council's guide to council tax 2011/2012. (Tandridge District Council) Page 6 states: 'The Bank of England has announced cheques are to be phased out by 2018''.

'As a pensioner, I rely on cheques as a fundamental, irreplaceable and secure part of my financial control…enable me to know and be reassured, exactly what has been deducted from my bank account'.

'Cheques enable me to be self-reliant and independent. My cheque stubs provide an up-to-date, real time record of my balances'

'Tackling financial exclusion is an issue of social responsibility for any government…They [cheques] should continue as part of a balanced banking framework that works for all citizens'.

'I am 88, my husband 90, and we need to keep solvent in the way we have all our lives. We need daily confirmation of what we spend out, why, when and to whom'.

This was the announcement made by the UK Payments Council following the Treasury Select Committee inquiry:

The Payments Council is today (12 July 2011) announcing that cheques will continue for as long as customers need them and the target for possible closure of the cheque clearing in 2018 has been cancelled. The Payments Council Board will continue to focus on security, efficiency and encouraging innovation in all types of payments to ensure customers have options best suited to the 21st century.

For further information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.