In a welcome move by the Irish government and its Department of Finance, a proposal for a legislative framework to manage access to cash and anticipated future decline in cash infrastructure has been put forward.
At present, the Central Bank of Ireland does not have an explicit legal mandate to ensure access to cash. However, the government and the CBI previously agreed to the Eurosystem Cash Strategy (in September 2020), acknowledging a fundamental responsibility for the Eurosystem and wider banking sector to safeguard the Availability, Access, and Acceptance of cash.
At the core of the strategic priorities of the strategy are the “three A’s”:
- Availability – The Eurosystem ensures that euro banknotes and coins are available to
the public at all times through the provision of cash services to the retail-banking sector.
- Access – The Eurosystem supports public access to services to withdraw and deposit
cash, as facilitated by the retail-banking sector and other stakeholders.
- Acceptance – The Eurosystem promotes acceptance of cash as a mean of payment by
retailers, traders and other private businesses.
Further to those strategic priorities The Retail Banking Review (November 2022) recommends that:
The Department of Finance should develop Access to Cash legislation, and prepare heads
of a bill in 2023 to:
- Require banks that meet objective criteria to provide reasonable access to cash.
“Reasonable access to cash” criteria will be defined in consultation with the Central
Bank and other stakeholders and the initial objective of the legislation will be to
preserve access at December 2022 levels; and
- Provide that the criteria can be changed by the Minister for Finance by regulation,
based on research and advice from the Central Bank. This will allow for the further
evolution of the cash infrastructure to be managed in a fair, orderly, transparent and
equitable manner for all stakeholders.
Access to Cash
- Pending development of this Access to Cash legislation, the banks should seek to preserve
consumers’ and business’ access to cash services at December 2022 levels.
- The Department of Finance should prepare heads of a bill in 2023 to require ATM operators
to be authorised and supervised by the Central Bank.
- The Department of Finance should prepare heads of a bill in 2023 to provide the Central
Bank with responsibility and powers to protect the resilience of the cash system including
the authorisation and supervision of cash-in-transit firms in respect of their cash handling
activities and related financial services.
- The Department of Finance should lead on the preparation of a new National Payments
Strategy to be ready in 2024. The strategy should set out a roadmap for the future evolution
of the entire payments system, taking account of developments in digital payments, the use
of cheques and other issues, and guide how future changes should be made to the
legislative Access to Cash criteria. The Strategy should be informed by, and aligned with,
the retail payment strategies of both the EU Commission and the Eurosystem. The Strategy
should also consider and consult on whether:
- To legislate pre-emptively to give the Minister for Finance the power to require
certain classes of firms, sectors or sub-sectors to accept or facilitate (to an
appropriate level) the acceptance of cash; and
- If it should be Government policy that public bodies should accept or facilitate the
acceptance of cash for the payment of goods, services, taxes, levies, fees or charges.
It is to be hoped that all stakeholders will ensure the swift implementation of the recommendations.