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Banks to be fined for free cash access failure

Amid concerns about the demise of cash, the UK government wants to force banks to offer cash services free of charge.

Andrew Griffith

Andrew Griffith/HM Treasury

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been handed new powers to enforce the provision of cash by banks.

The new minimum expectations for cash users are set out through new legislation - the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 - and will mean the FCA can fine banks and building societies that do not comply with the new rules.

“Whilst the growing choice and convenience of digital payments is great, cash has an important and continuing role to play. That’s why we are taking action to protect access to cash in law and laying out that this means fee-free withdrawals and the availability of cash facilities within a reasonable distance,” economic secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffith, said.

In recent years the UK has been one of the fastest major economies to move further away from using coins and notes. Online payments too have been quickly rising from 45 per cent to 85 per cent in the past ten years.

However, concerns have been raised about access to cash, especially for poorer demographic groups and those living in rural areas. 

One aspect of the new consumer protections will mean the “vast majority of people and businesses” will be no further than three miles away from cash machines.

“People shouldn’t have to trek for hours to withdraw a tenner to put in someone’s birthday card – nor should businesses have to travel large distances to deposit cash takings. These are measures which benefit everyone who uses cash but particularly those living in rural areas, the elderly and those with disabilities,”  Griffith added.

From today any services withdrawn must be replaced before a closure takes place. 

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