Checks will take us into 2010, 2011, but we need to be selling something in 2009 beyond checks… Checks will be a maintenance-only industry.
Technorati Tags: payments
There’s something really unusual — in the big sense of the word — rumbling along here. In the course of human history and the march of commerce, new forms of payment have been invented from time to time. Coins, notes, cheques, cards, EFT, Paypal and M-PESA. But over time they have sat alongside one another. We’ve seen them change their market shares, obviously, but they all continue to exist. In the last couple of days I’ve used coins as well as chip & PIN cards, Paypal as well as online bank transfers. As each new mechanism comes along, we carry on using the old ones. We’ve never seen one of them go away. Never. But in the case of cheques, it seems to me to be entirely plausible that they disappear within my lifetime.
Last month, I tried to book a flight on British Airways web site. Every time I pressed “pay” (or whatever it says) it went wrong, so in the end I had to phone up their call centre and sit on hold (on an 0870 number) for ages before I could book the tickets for the whole family. BA punish you for doing this not only through the 0870 charges (note to foreign readers: 0870 is not free) but also by surcharging fifteen quid per ticket for phone bookings. I complained to their customer service centre and got a refund. I assumed that, since BA knew perfectly well which card had been used to pay for the tickets they would simply refund the money to the card. But to my surprise (and slight annoyance) they sent me a cheque. I was looking for it over the weekend but I can’t remember where I put it.
I’m almost an anomaly. Half of all British adults didn’t receive a single cheque last year. In the last decade, APACS figures show that the number of cheques written in the U.K. has halved, to the point where the billion cheques written account for only one in ten of all non-cash transactions and only one in thirty of all retail non-cash transactions. APACS predict that the fall will continue but slow, so that in 2016 us Brits will still be writing 840 million cheques per annum. Maybe. But on the other hand, perhaps by 2016 P2P payments will have moved entirely to NFC phones and bill payments will be pushed to the handset, and there will be nothing for cheques to do. Except for the giant ones they give to lottery winners, but that’s a bit of a special case.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]