The UK government is introducing legislation that will enable British consumers and firms to deposit cheques by taking a photo with their smartphone or tablet.
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will update existing rules so that banks and building societies will be able process cheque images – rather than the physical paper – for the first time. The Treasury expects the use of digital imaging technology to reduce cheque processing times from six to two days and eventually make cashing a cheque faster than completing a Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (Bacs) transfer.
The digital payment method has proved popular in the US consumers over the past decade, According to data compiled by Celent, some 20m US consumers used mobile remote deposit capture last year compared with 10.9m in 2012. The analyst predicts the mobile user base will increase to 33m this year, 47m in 2015, and 61m by 2016.
Barclays, the first UK bank to pilot cheque imaging, has welcomed the news. Steven Roberts, director for transformation, says: “This is an opportunity to move cheques into the 21st century, to reduce costs and make banking easier and more convenient for customers.”
Although their use has been steadily falling in recent years, cheques remain a popular form of payment in the UK, accounting for transactions totalling £840m in 2012, and making up 10% of all payments made by individuals.
They also remain a popular vital payment method for smaller businesses. Sole traders and other micro businesses continue to make over a fifth of their outgoing payments in cheques, according to the UK government.
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