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Sweden’s Far From Accidental “Cashless” Journey Is HALTED By The Swedish Government

Posted on: 26/06/2024

A Payment Choice Alliance Special Report

Sweden’s Far From Accidental “Cashless” Journey Is HALTED By The Swedish Government


When this report was originally written in 2018, it covered the story of an unrelenting quest by the Swedish banks to make Sweden the planets first “cashless” economy.

Some had already concluded that a “cashless” Sweden was inevitable, even though more than 50% of Swedish adults continued to believe that the public should have an inalienable right to use cash for payments.

In fact, a ‘cashless’ Sweden became such a certainty that the prestigious Wharton Business School saw it as sensible to publish an article in 2018 in which 24 March 2023 was identified as the day it would happen.

In some respects, Sweden has continued along the same path as was evident in 2018.

In 2024, there are fewer ATMs than ever; fewer bank branches; even less competition in the cash management market; and crime is at its highest rate ever (14).

However, the very last point in the summary of this report, written six years ago stated:

"Only government intervention in the public interest can halt the journey towards a cashless future. As of February 2018, such intervention looks possible."

It looked possible – and it HAS happened.

In 2019, The Civil Contingencies Agency, an arm of the government which prepares Sweden for crisis, advised everyone to keep cash at home in small denominations in case the payment system crashes. This advice had never been given before to the Swedish public.

In 2021, a Swedish Payment Services Act introduced the requirement that certain large credit institutions – the six largest banks in Sweden – are obliged to provide certain cash services throughout Sweden. The purpose is to ensure a certain minimum level of access to cash services for consumers and companies. Banks providing payment accounts with basic functions to consumers are also obliged to provide places for cash withdrawals. Moreover, banks providing payment accounts to companies are required to provide places for depositing daily takings (15).

Then, in 2024, came announcement that marks the beginning of the end of the plan to make Sweden “cashless”.

The Sveriges Riksbank - the Swedish Central Bank - had generally been very slow to protect the public interest in relation to cash use. 
For a long time, the Riksbank seemed to have bought into the prediction from various “experts” that Sweden would be “cashless” by March 2023.
 However, in March 2024, the Central Bank issued this stunning statement in their annual Payments Report: 
“As a general rule, merchants selling essential goods must be obliged to accept cash, both to ensure that EVERYONE CAN PAY and to be able to cope with a peacetime crisis situation or state of heightened alert.” (16)

So the Swedish public have won; the Swedish government has finally listened to them and granted what they had wanted; the inalienable right to use cash for payments.

Curiously, the Access To Cash Review, produced under the leadership of Natalie Ceeney in 2018, suggested that Sweden might be “sleepwalking” into becoming a “cashless” society. The Swedish government has proved that it was NOT sleepwalking. It has acted – and acted decisively.

The Swedish public now have more and better legal protection for cash acceptance and cash access than their British counterparts – as, by the way, do the public in many of the UK’s European neighbours.

Now it is time for the new British government, elected on 4 July 2024, to deliver the comprehensive cash acceptance and access legislation put forward by the Payment Choice Alliance.

The British public deserve nothing less.

Deadline? By the end of 2005 at the latest.

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