Two thirds of consumers think banks should be forced to offer cheque books

May 10, 2012

Payment options for consumers in Britain have never been more plentiful – or as complex – as they are today. Latest research from Mintel reveals that, despite all the advances in payment technology, consumers are hugely reluctant to give up on the humble chequebook – as two thirds (66%) of consumers believe that banks should be forced to continue to offer customers the option of having a chequebook.

However, it appears consumers are more keen on having the option of using cheques than they are on actually making use of the service. Indeed, a good proportion (21%) of the population have never even written a cheque and, in total, less than half (45%) have paid for anything by cheque within the last few months. Predictably, there’s a strong link between age and cheque use: some 52% of under-25s have never used a cheque, and a further quarter (25%) haven’t paid for anything by cheque within the last few months.

Toby Clark, Head of Financial Services at Mintel, said:

“There’s a strong conservative streak among the British public, as confirmed by the the outcry and subsequent climbdown when banks tried to withdraw support for chequebooks. But offering cheques costs banks money, and in the end, that costs all of us money. If people had to pay a little extra if they wanted to have the option of writing a cheque, I’m not sure that they’d still be as set on keeping that service going.”

“At the moment, consumers are mainly sticking to the tried and tested. Even people who have been issued with contactless cards are more likely than not to ignore the contactless feature. However, Mintel’s research shows there’s also huge potential for change. There’s particularly strong interest in many of the features offered by mobile wallets. Payment providers need to prepare for a period of rapid change if they’re not to lose control of the customer relationship.”Toby continues.

A fear of fraud

One of the reasons for people’s conservatism is an understandable fear that new payment methods could leads to greater levels of fraud. While three fifths (57%) agree that they are worried about payment fraud, only a minority (31%) have actually been a victim of any kind of payment fraud at any point in the last five years. Individually, the most common type of loss is card fraud. Some 14% say that they have been a victim of this kind of theft.

It’s not just new payment technology that comes with security risks, though. When thefts of cash and losses as a result of being passed forged notes or coins are combined, the proportion of consumers who have been victims rivals that of card fraud – 8% have had cash stolen, and 5% have lost money thanks to forgery.

“The issue of payment fraud is absolutely central when it comes to convincing consumers to adopt new payment methods. Understandably, people are wary of any change to the status quo, but consumers’ fears are not always grounded in reality. Notional threats associated with newer technology are often overplayed, while people are prepared to overlook very real security flaws in established payment technologies. But rational or not, these fears must be countered if new payment technology is to thrive.”Toby concludes.

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