Following last week’s Visa card system crash, which left millions of people unable to pay for goods and services in the UK and across Europe, the PRA has highlighted the importance of cash in its submission to a Government consultation.

The PRA was responding to HM Treasury’s consultation looking to provide a better understanding of the role of cash and digital payments in the new economy.

The Treasury is looking at how the transition from cash to digital payments impacts on different sectors, different regions and different demographics.

In its submission consultation, the PRA makes a number of key points:

• Cash is still and will continue to be for the foreseeable future an important method of payment. Many people, particularly on low incomes rely on cash and 77% of UK consumers view access to free cash machines as essential.

• Cash still remains the cheapest payment method for retailers and is a vital payment method as cards/digital payment methods cannot be relied on entirely. This was highlighted on 1 June 2018 when the Visa network went down, adversely affecting consumers and many merchants who were unable to accept this method of payment for goods and services.

• The unregulated, “cash-in-hand” basis on which hand car washes have seen such rapid growth has had serious implications by reducing the number of legitimate businesses operating in the car wash industry as a whole and distorting fair competition.

• Cash usage is more predominant among low-income consumers and small businesses, particularly in rural areas. In local shops, 78% of transactions are made in cash.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “The PRA is concerned about the Valuations Office Agency’s (VOA) decision in April 2010 to rate through-the-wall ATMs as separate business premises with the intention of generating additional business rates.

“Since the decision, local authorities responsible for issuing and collecting business rates have missed many ATMs, and as a result there has been a flurry of activity to catch up over the past two years which has highlighted the problem. This anti-business measure is causing both small and large retailers alike, including many members of the PRA, to either charge for cash or remove through-the- wall ATMs altogether.

“This is resulting in an ever-worsening situation for those living in rural areas. Often without access to the dwindling number of bank branches or post offices which are currently exempt from these additional rates, they are more reliant on ATMs provided by local retailers.

"The combination of an unclear and expensive business rates system levied on ‘through-the-wall ATMs, pressure exerted by the major British banks on the LINK network (the UK’s largest cash machine network), and the closure of Post Office and Bank branches is leading to a worsening problem of cash deserts in rural areas.”