PSR and the FCA respond to announcement from Cash Action Group (CAG)

15/12/2021

Access to cash

We respond to the Cash Action Group’s (CAG) announcement that retail banks and building societies will create an independent body to assess the needs of local communities and direct cash solutions

We are pleased to see firms taking steps to maintain access to cash. Cash is an everyday part of life for approximately 5 million adults in the UK. The Cash Action Group’s initiative will rely on the commitment of the firms involved to meet evolving local cash access needs.

Our current assessment is that most people have reasonable access to cash and we monitor and publish coverage levels quarterly.

Individual firms remain responsible for making sure their own customers are treated fairly. Where a firm closes a branch or ATM in a local area we expect them to assess alternatives that are available or could reasonably be put in place to meet customer needs. Firms should continue to follow the FCA’s Guidance on branch and ATM closures or conversions (FG20/3) and Guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers (FG21/1) when making and implementing their decision.

The work to ensure the LINK ATM network remains sustainable, resilient, and accessible to those who need it is a Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) priority. The PSR has recently consulted on replacing Specific Direction 8 which has been successful in maintaining a broad geographic spread of free to use (FTU) ATMs, ensuring that businesses and consumers have access to cash.

In July 2021, the Government consulted on legislating to protect access to cash in the long-term. Ahead of future legislation, both the FCA and PSR will continue to monitor access to cash. We will watch how the Cash Action Group’s initiative develops. The FCA will use what it learns to inform any work on the proposed future regulatory regime, including future requirements for cash access. Find out more about our work to protect access to cash.

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said:

“It is crucial that appropriate access to cash is maintained for those who need it, so we welcome this industry initiative by the Cash Action Group. Banks and building societies remain responsible for assessing the impact any closures of their branches may have on their customers, including those with characteristics of vulnerability, and for considering what alternatives could reasonably be put in place. We hope this initiative will help maintain access to cash and will be watching it as it develops.”

Chris Hemsley, Managing Director of the PSR, said:

“We want to see industry working together and at pace to meet their customers’ needs. We welcome the work of the Cash Action Group and I hope that it brings confidence to consumers and businesses that access to cash will be maintained for those who need it. We look forward to seeing progress and updates on next steps as this initiative develops.”