Campaigning for cash

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THE coin of the realm might seem old-fashioned to some, but one politician is seeking to ensure that it does not go the way of the dodo.

Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel believes that Islanders’ right to use cash should be enshrined in law.

Speaking in a non-ministerial capacity, he said that he was considering bringing a proposition to the States Assembly which would make sure that Jersey’s society could not move to an entirely “cashless” model.

Similar rules are currently being considered in Norway and Sweden, as well as other EU countries.

Earlier this month, States Members unanimously passed a proposition from Deputy Lucy Stephenson to reintroduce cash payments at Fort Regent, Springfield and Les Quennevais sports centres after the sites went cashless in 2019 – and politicians also voted to review current and future cashless policies at other sports departments and facilities only.

The matter came to the fore after an autistic Islander was prevented from going swimming at Les Quennevais Sports Centre after trying to pay with cash in December.

During the debate, the Solicitor-General informed the Chamber that there was no law protecting the rights of Islanders to use cash.

Speaking to the JEP after that debate, Deputy Morel said he was considering making a change.

He said: “Cash, for me, is a really important component of society because it enables us to transact with other people entirely free from surveillance.

“If I was to buy something from another Islander, I should be able to do that without being logged. There is a third party involved in every digital transaction, and to lose the ability to pay for something with cash is to lose one of our freedoms.

“Just because it is really easy and we can go down the road of cashless payments does not mean we should. The cost is our freedom.”

He continued: “If you have a government which is not a benign government, then they can use that collected data against you. I was brought up at the tail end of communism and the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was spying on the lives of their citizens.”

Deputy Morel explained that enshrining this right in law should be the result of a States Assembly decision, instead of a ministerial one, and would have to be “long-lasting”.

He added that he would want to bring a “strong proposition to make sure no one pushed back on it” and needed first to research and speak to colleagues.

During the debate on Tuesday, Infrastructure Minister Andy Jehan amended the proposition to ensure that the review was contained to sports facilities.

He said that 800,000 people had transacted at Les Quennevais since the cashless policy was introduced and he was aware of “very limited concern or complaints”.

Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel in the market Picture: James Jeune (37763581)

Treasury Minister Elaine Millar further said that cashless policies were responding to changes in payment habits seen locally and nationally.

A local Facebook group called “JERSEY CI. Cash is King” – which lists places that do not accept cash as payment and also offers a forum to discuss the importance of cash – has gained thousands of members since it was created last summer.

Behind the group is Nina Morgan who said she was “pleased” to see that the proposition to return cash to the sports centres was passed by the Assembly.

She added: “The fact that Deputy Morel is considering bringing in legislation that would enshrine into law the right to use cash is a very important next step. I absolutely support any proposition that would protect the use of cash in Jersey.

“It is important that no one is discriminated against in Jersey and that there is equal access to all goods and services by everyone, regardless of their personal financial arrangements.

“We have disability discrimination and age discrimination legislation enforced in Jersey, but for some reason the impact cashless outlets have on those groups of people and to their ability to easily access everyday things like shopping, gyms, restaurants, events, sports facilities and even healthcare providers, has been completely overlooked.”

She added: “Ensuring access does not stop at having a wide enough front door and a wheelchair ramp.”

She said that she was aware of Islanders who struggled to access banking and services and that it was a “current problem” which needed tackling now.

How many people use cash?

At the end of 2023, £97.3 million of Jersey notes and coins were in circulation in the Island (the Currency Fund).

The response to a freedom of information request published in December 2015 stated that the peak value of Jersey currency in circulation in 2014 was around £95m.

It added: “Based on current projected demand provided by the banks, we expect the 2015 value of Jersey notes in circulation to increase to around £98m; though this is subject to change as banks vary their requests.”

At that time, the law stated that no more than £100 million could be in circulation, although there were moves to increase the threshold to £125 million.

Those behind the move warned that a failure to up the limit “could potentially result in note shortages and limitations on the amount of cash available at cash points or at retailers which would be detrimental to the Island’s economy”.

In 2023, the government collected 91% of its income through electronic channels such as card payments, bank transfer, and online payments via the website.

The government continues to make cash and cheque payment channels available and in 2023, 30,000 cheque and cash payments were received for government services.

The ECB SPACE study, which investigates the Payment Attitudes of Consumers in the Euro Area, concluded that 73% of point-of-sale and person-to-person payments were made using cash.

Is this an issue in other countries?

This month, Norway’s government reportedly proposed rules designed to ensure that consumers can pay with cash.

These measures were meant to ensure that those who are reluctant to use digital payments can pay with notes and coins, Bloomberg reported.

In 2018, Swedish lawmakers also tried to slow down their move towards becoming cashless by forcing the country’s largest banks to continue offering cash withdrawals.

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