The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), while driving the digitalisation of payments and the introduction of a digital currency, has taken action to protect its physical currency, revealing it fined 16 public and private organisations in late 2020 for refusing to accept cash.
While cashless payments have become popular across China, cash is still preferred by many thanks to its immediacy and reliability. There is also growing concern around the tens of millions of people being left behind because they lack access to, or knowledge of how to engage with the online economy.
A video of a woman left ‘helpless and confused’ by staff at a company who refused to accept cash in payment for health insurance sparked outrage when it went viral in November 2020. This and similar occurrences have prompted China’s government to take a stand on ‘protecting the right of the public to use cash.’
Organisations were fined up to 500,000 yuan (around $77,000 or €64,000) for taking what the PBOC termed ‘discriminatory or inconvenient’ measures denying customers the right to pay using cash. Those penalised included major insurance company Ping An, several property management companies, and a public park in Beijing.