Decline in cheque payments doubles as shift towards electronic takes hold

THE phasing out of cheques is accelerating, with new figures showing the volume used here last year declined by 13% — more than double the reduction in 2008.

The Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO), said there has been a 23% fall in usage over four successive years of decline — from 130 million cheques to 100m.

“Businesses now have to plan and prepare to update legacy, cheque-based accounting processes with electronic ones. Apart from being faster, more secure and more cost-effective; modern electronic payment systems give the beneficiary certainty of payment — particularly important in these difficult economic times,” according to IPSO chief executive Pat McLoughlin.

IPSO’s latest annual review further points to a gradual shift towards electronic transactions — with debit card usage up by 8% and the value of cash paid out through ATMs declining for the first time ever, by over 11% — albeit to a level still more than double the EU average and the highest level of any member state.

Similarly, the overall death of the cheque is likely to be some time off as they still account for 66% of the value of all non-cash payments in Ireland. The corresponding EU average is just 3%.

IPSO has reiterated the call for Government to implement the mooted National Payments Implementation Plan — recommended, last year, by an advisory group and expected to be agreed later this year.

“The progression of a national strategy to move away from cash as the primary form of payment is essential. It’s well documented that cash has many associated costs such as production, storage, processing, transportation and security. There are also societal costs such as robbery, tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activity,” Mr McLoughlin added.

The Department of Finance has already said it is the Government’s policy to promote the increased use of electronic payments.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is, according to his office, currently also considering the recommendations made by the NPIP advisory group.

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