One year after deciding to set a target date of 2018 to close the central cheque clearing, the Payments Council has published its commitments to customers on the run up to 2016, when the decision will actually be taken whether the target date is feasible. The launch of the customer commitments coincides with the publication of the Payments Council’s first annual Progress Report which outlines the scope and scale of the work undertaken in 2010.
With the stakeholder consultation that has taken place throughout 2010 continuing into 2011, the commitments ensure that the Council’s intentions are clear and in the public domain. The commitments will be reviewed at two-yearly intervals to ensure that they remain appropriate and relevant for customers as work progresses.
The 10 commitments made by the Council are:
- The process by which we take the final decision in 2016 on whether to close cheque clearing will be transparent and open for public scrutiny and will include an independent evaluation of costs and benefits.
- Our members recognise that their customers who are reliant on the cheque will need time to migrate to the alternatives which will be introduced over the next few years; therefore, members confirm that they will continue to make cheque facilities available to these customers until either there are available, acceptable and widely adopted alternatives in place, or the closure of the cheque clearing itself.
- We will continue listening to and working with charities, clubs, societies and other voluntary organisations to ensure that we understand and address their requirements, both as writers and receivers of cheques.
- We will ensure that the needs of harder-to-reach and vulnerable groups are identified and addressed in our work to develop a choice of alternatives to cheques.
- We recognise the importance to older people and disabled people of services that meet their needs and will ensure that these are understood and addressed in developing alternatives.
- We will ensure that the needs of the small business sector, both as the senders and receivers of payments, are understood and addressed in developing viable alternatives.
- Where there are gaps in the current range of payment options, we will look to foster innovation and investigate the feasibility of providing a paper-based method of payment, to address the needs of some consumers who are highly dependent on cheques and who may find it difficult to migrate to the electronic alternatives.
- We will ensure that security and consumer protection remain paramount in our work on alternatives to cheques.
- We will commission robust and independent market research to be undertaken with consumers, businesses and the charitable and voluntary sector to measure awareness of alternatives to cheques and levels of acceptability of those alternatives; we will also make the results of this research public.
- We will work together as an industry to ensure that any change introduced is communicated in a way that educates and informs our customers and supports their move to alternative methods of payment.
Richard North, chairman of the Payments Council, said: “By setting a target date for closing cheque clearing, we know we have set ourselves a massive challenge in developing alternatives that work for customers and that people will choose to use in place of cheques. However, with the publication of the commitments we hope that we can reassure all stakeholders that we have their interests at heart, in what is actually a great opportunity to develop new ways to pay that are an improvement on the current options available.”
Payments Council research shows that 55% of consumers are still not aware that a target date of 2018 has been set to close the cheque clearings. Of those (42%) that are aware of a target being set, a quarter believe that the date is either next year or in 2012. Over the next year the industry will be continuing to raise awareness of the actual timescales and to reassure them of the process.