You may have already experienced it: in some stores, if you hand over a banknote to pay your bill, you will be refused it, explaining to you that “here, we only accept bank cards”. But is this refusal really legal?
Chloé is a mother from Liège. Recently, she was surprised by the refusal of the American brand specializing in the sale of industrial donuts “Dunkin’ Donuts” to receive payment in cash from her 12-year-old son. At this age, it is quite common not to have a bank card yet. “How do children without a card or even people who are banned from banking do?“, exclaims Chloe. “If all traders, let alone food vendors, did this, what would people in financial difficulty eat?“
After her little one told her the news, Chloe picked up her phone to call the manager of the store located in the Médiacité shopping center in Liège to obtain more information. “She explained to me that it was a deposit from the chain: no payment in cash, the shops are not even equipped with a cash register“.
Is this really a legal practice?
Dunkin’ Donuts is not the only brand to operate in this way, other large chains, such as sushi restaurants Makisu also use this method. Moreover, while walking in the streets of Namur, we came across several disgruntled people. “I left the bakery, and I paid for my bread in cash. I like to have a little money, and I think the elderly like it too, for the grandchildren, for the little ones. shopping”, told us a passerby from the Walloon capital.
“There is not really a law which obliges to propose the payment by cash. If it doesn’t suit the person, that customer can refuse to go to that store”, explains Florence Angelici, spokesperson for the FPS Finances. Technically, Belgium follows a European recommendation which says that you must be able to pay in cash in shops. But in fact, the country has no legal basis for this: more precisely, a trade is not really reprehensible if it does not respect the recommendation.
The euro payment method is regulated at European level in a 2010 regulation. In principle, a debtor can pay his debt using euro coins and banknotes. Of course, there are situations, such as e-commerce, where there is no personal contact between merchant and customer and where, for practical reasons, it is therefore not possible to use cash.
Traders are normally obliged to accept cash, with exceptions, security, for example
“These companies used the argument of hygiene during the pandemic, but several studies have proven that it was no more dangerous to pay in cash than by credit card.“, details Julie Frère, spokesperson for Test Achats. “Merchants are authorized to request only the bank card but only if it is an exception – security, for example – and of short duration. They are normally obliged to accept cash“. Etienne Mignolet, spokesperson for the FPS Economy, also agrees with this.”An exceptional and temporary security requirement may be an exception to the refusal to accept the cash. There is also the anti-money laundering law, which requires a cash payment of a maximum of 3,000 euros. To put it simply, a payment greater than this sum can be refused”.
“A question of security”, for Dunkin’
Contacted by the editorial staff, the American brand established in Belgium for only 2 years wanted to answer questions about this unique means of payment that they impose in their brands.
“The choice to switch to cashless mode comes from several reasons”, explains Roberto Fava, Managing Director of Dunkin’ Netherlands – Belgium. “First, for the safety of our employees and customers. Indeed, we have already experienced several armed robberies in our stores and the safety of our team and our customers are the top priorities.“.
The management of the donut producer also justifies its choice by a question of speed of service. “By going through order terminals, we were able to eliminate a slowness that was felt when everyone went through the checkouts. We were able to reduce the waiting time for consumers“.
A “hostage taking” of consumers, according to Test Achats
For Julie Frère, spokesperson for Test Achats, requiring only one means of payment is unacceptable: “It is always this logic followed by banks and large companies who would like a society without cash, completely digitized. Conversely, some traders only ask for cash. We fight for consumers to have a choice!” Note that from 1er July 2022, all merchants will be obliged to offer at least one electronic payment method in their store.
In a survey carried out recently by Test Achats, a rather surprising figure emerges: 15% of respondents explained that they had not made a single electronic payment in the last 12 months. The figure even rises to 25% for 60-80 year olds.
“It’s not a small number. For a whole host of reasons, people don’t want to go digital. More generally, if consumers are prevented from paying in cash, this is simply taking their money hostage. They have the right to spend it however they want“, explains Julie Frère.
Conversely, 97% of respondents say they have paid for a purchase at least once in cash during the past year. Proof that the liquid is still popular in Belgium.