Chinese central bank vows to punish discrimination against cash payment

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has called for a wider acceptance of cash in economic activities. The central bank has urged all the entities and individuals to not discriminate or carry out any inconvenient measures to exclude cash payment and create “gaps of digitization”.

PBOC releasing a press statement on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, has vowed to punish those who refuse to accept cash payments.

In recent years, online payments via bar-codes have gained huge popularity in China. Alibaba-backed Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent Holding’s Tenpay, third-party payment apps, have brought great convenience to many people’s lives, but that’s not the case for everyone.

Elderly people, especially in the relatively underdeveloped areas, still have no or limited access to the digital life empowered by technology and innovation. Most of them also experience difficulties in adapting to new trends compare to younger people.

Even as some basic public services such as medical treatment, water, electricity, and gas fees have gradually migrated online, it means inconvenience for senior citizens.

Last month, the story of an elderly in Yichang, central China’s Hubei Province, drew wide attention and triggered discussions. According to a video clip that went viral online, an old lady visiting a village collection point to pay her medical insurance was refused since the on-site staff did not accept cash payments.

“Either ask your relatives (to help) or pay on the mobile phone,” the staff ordered the old woman.

The PBoC in the statement stressed that some merchants and institutions have become reluctant to accept cash due to reasons such as cost control or user experience, mostly with the trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Renminbi cash is the most basic means of payment. Entities or individuals cannot refuse to accept it,” the central bank expressed.

The central bank will investigate and punish firms or individuals that refuse to accept cash or adopt discriminatory measures against cash payments.

The PBOC urged that all entities and individuals should not discriminate or carry out any inconvenient measures to exclude cash payment and create “gaps of digitalisation”.

“The innovation of consumption and payment methods should be conducive to … protect people’s livelihood and enhance the public’s sense of happiness,” the PBOC wrote.

It also expressed that non-bank payment institutions do not promote the concept of cashless or discriminate against cash payment in any form.