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Shoppers shun cards for cash payments

Published:  23 July, 2008

Retailers are seeing greater numbers of shoppers opt for cash when making purchases, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has claimed.

New figures from the trade body show cash is now used for 60% of transactions, up from 54% last year.

By value, cash is used for 34% of retail spending, compared with 32% last year.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Reports of the death of cash are premature. Cash is not only alive, it's thriving.

"Hard up customers are increasingly reluctant to spend money they haven't actually got in their hands. While total retail spending continues to grow, there is a widening gap between the amount spent in cash and the amount spent using cards, suggesting customers want to keep tight control of their finances."

The BRC has long campaigned against the size of commission charged to retailers by credit and debit card companies.

On average, a retailer is charged 2p for processing a cash transaction while the charge for a credit card is 34p and, for a debit card, 8p. The BRC said: "These costs are too high for retailers to absorb and are inevitably passed on to customers in the form of higher prices."

It said retailers responding to its survey were charged 516m in 2007 of which 82% (424m) related to card payments.

The BRC also accuses card companies of pushing cashless payment methods as a way of further boosting their own revenue.

It wants card issuers and banks to acknowledge the "very low costs" they incur and reduce charges for processing these card payments. If cash replacements such as 'Touch and Go' card systems are to be accepted by retailers, charges must be below those for handling cash, says the BRC.

Robertson added: "Banks should not be exploiting new payment systems as a way of taking extra money from shoppers. There should be a lower fixed fee per transaction which actually reflects the cost of processing, so new technology brings balanced benefits to retailers, consumers and banks."