Is it Careless to go Cashless?

The idealistic move towards a cashless society has raised its head once again today as the NCT (National Car Testing Service) has announced that they are going cashless.

In a post on social media, the NCT said:

“We’re saying goodbye to cash! NCTs are going cashless over the coming months for your safety and convenience, this means that payment must be made in advance of attending for your NCT. When introduced, payment can be made online or by postal order.”

Although we can appreciate the progression and major contributions of the digital age, it is imperative that those without digital access do not get left behind. This not only includes older persons, but also some persons with a disability or people on lower incomes. Therefore, once an organisation decides to go cashless, they immediately exclude those mentioned.

We know from research conducted by Age Action in 2022, that almost 300,000 people aged 60 or older were not using the internet. According to the CSO, 45% of persons aged 75 and over, have never used the internet. So, what does it mean for these people, when a company goes cashless?

Financial Exclusion: Going cashless limits access to essential goods and services such as the NCT, a mandatory requirement for all car owners. The decision also assumes that all customers are enrolled in a bank or financial institution and those without a bank account are immediately blocked from being able to pay.

Financial Security and Fraud: With the rise in number of scams online, through texts and phone calls, it is no wonder that anyone could be discouraged from entering personal information such as payment details online or over the phone. This can make one feel vulnerable and less trusting but can also leave someone open to risk of fraud or financial abuse.

Lack of Independence: As mentioned, the feeling of vulnerability extends into one’s ability and knowledge in navigating technological devices such as smart phones or computers. An older person may have to rely on someone else to carry out online payments for example. Having to share very personal financial information can feel like an invasion of privacy and once again, can leave such as person open to financial abuse.

Technological Barriers: Quite simply, not everyone has access to a phone, tablet or a computer for a number of reasons such as cost, quality or location. There are certainly numerous parts of the country that still do not have sufficient internet access which impedes a person’s ability to engage online.

Social Exclusion: Nowadays, digital exclusion can mirror certain aspects of social exclusion. A person may not be able to interact with group activities or outings if they are only advertised online or require digital payments. This completely isolates a person and can prevent them from participating fully in their community.

As you can see, the NCT’s decision to go cashless will have a profound impact on any vehicle owner who does not have digital knowledge or internet access. But what about the postal order?

The offer of payment by postal order again causes problems for the same cohorts of people. This would require accessible, in-person customer service at a bank or post-office that is in within a reasonable distance. Not to mention the fee that goes along with a postal order as well as the cost of petrol or diesel to get you there. The knock-on effect of this decision will surely affect multiple households and we support the call on Government to help in reversing this decision.