Submission by the Saga group to the reopened treasury select committee inquiry on the future of cheques

Friday 6 May 2011

Submission by the Saga group to the reopened treasury select committee inquiry on the future of cheques

The Committee has reopened an inquiry into the future of cheques given what it detects as “continuing public concern” over the proposal to phase them out by 2018. This submission adduces polling evidence from the over 50s that the opposition to the proposal is overwhelming by a majority of over three to one. The proposal is preponderantly seen as particularly unfair for this age group.

1. Who We Are

1.1. Saga is a British company focused on serving the needs of those aged 50 and over. It has 2.7 million customers. The main components of the business are:

· Saga Personal Finance providing savings accounts, credit cards, travel money, financial advice, equity release, share dealing, annuities, life assurance and long term care funding advice.

· Saga Holidays providing package holidays and tours across the globe, and owning and operating a number of cruise ships.

· Saga Insurance providing motor, home, travel, health, boat, holiday home and pet insurance.

· Saga Independent Living providing domiciliary care and other care services nationwide.

1.2. Saga undertakes monthly polling of the over 50s age group through the Populus polling agency. This Populus panel provides the largest sampling of the over 50s in the UK.

2. Saga/Populus Poll Results

2.1. Between 12th and 18th November 2010, Saga/Populus polled 13,512 panel members aged over 50 in relation to their perceptions of the possible phase out of cheques for all payments by October 2018. The full results are appended to this submission.

2.2. The results showed that a large majority (67%) opposed this proposal. In fact, the opponents of the proposal outnumbered its supporters by over three to one (67% vs. 21%). Of those opposing the move, there were significantly more “strongly” disagreeing with the move than “somewhat” disagreeing with it (42% vs. 25%).

2.3. These figures were broadly comparable across all regions of the UK and across all social classes. Opposition to the proposal rose steadily with age – amongst the 75 and over age group 78% were in disagreement with the measure. This may reflect a greater dependence on cheques in the older age ranges.

2.4. When the panel members were asked what they would do if they could not settle bills by cheque most respondents could think of an alternative, but 16% either did not know or claimed they would not be able to pay some of their bills.

2.5. When asked whether they thought that stopping all payments by cheque could be particularly unfair for people over 50, 59% agreed. Indeed, those agreeing that it could be particularly unfair for people over 50 outnumbered those who disagreed by over two to one (59% vs. 25%).

3. Interpretation

3.1. We believe that this poll provides strong evidence that retaining cheques would be popular and abolishing them unpopular amongst the over 50s. This impression is strengthened by the many letters we have received from older people expressing their concerns that they will not be able to manage without cheques.

3.2. As we age, we tend to become more housebound and less able perhaps to pay by cash. The most vulnerable of older people will often have no internet access – particularly if they live in remoter rural areas - and, if they are hard of hearing, may not be able to manage using telephone services either. We believe that the removal of cheques could prove a significant detriment to the over 50s, and we urge the Committee to seek to protect their interests in this matter.

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