The number of bank and building society branches closing in the UK has been a concern for some time. Now, consumer groups have warned that, in addition to branches being closed, consumers are being faced with the prospect of many ATM’s being closed as well.
According to consumer group Which?, ATM’s and banks are closing at “an alarming rate”. They say that the number of cash machines closing was just under 500 every month in the second half of last year. Furthermore, 250 of these machines were those offering a free cash withdrawal services.
The rise of online banking, mobile and contactless payments, and a declining need for cash, has led to branch closures across the UK. But, despite this change, a Which? survey found that 73% of people are still using cash regularly and consumers want the right to choose which payment method they want to use.
In a statement, Jenni Allen, managing director, Which? Money, said: “We have serious concerns that the alarming rate of cashpoint and bank branch closures risks leaving people facing an uphill battle to access the cash they rely on.”
“Cash is also a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity – so the Government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no-one is excluded and left struggling to go about their daily lives.”
The biggest concern for consumers is, as the UK shifts towards a potentially cashless society, that communities will be left struggling. Cash as a payment method is still needed, Which? say; and the closure of 3,300 branches since 2015 has left communities struggling.
If the trend continues, it could mean that certain groups of people will be unable to pay for goods. Those at the highest risk are people living in rural communities, who have seen a disproportionate number of closures. Which? add that “urgent regulatory action” is needed to manage the changes.