The right to Write Checks Campaign

A group of consumer advocates are promoting a campaign which aims to protect individual freedoms to pay for goods and services as they choose. The Right to Write Checks campaign was launched as a bid to protect consumers’ rights to pay by check as a preferred method, even though the use of checks is in steep annual decline.

Some businesses are now hanging signs which state “we do not accept checks,” which has caused concern for those who prefer this method of payment, which is particularly used by the older generation. Those organizing the campaign commissioned an Ipsos public affairs survey which revealed that 75% of Americans believe they have the right to pay by any method they choose.

The survey also reports that 20% believe it is bad customer service for a business not to accept checks, and 38% of consumers would consider no longer frequenting restaurants and stores that refuse to accept checks.

The campaign organizers have established a web site which has a video featuring Duncan Steele as ‘the man with checks appeal.” The website hosts an online petition which can be signed and posts comments from those defending the right to write checks. Comments include “I still need to write checks. This way I pay with the money I have and not use credit I don’t need” and “using checks helps you keep track of your spending. More people should use them.”

Interested consumers may purchase t shirts which sport logos promoting the campaign such as “stand up for your right to write checks”; “credit cards are a suckers game”; and “checks appeal”. Ironically the t shirts which can be purchased through Café Press cannot be paid for by check but require either a credit card payment of payment via PayPal.

The reality is of course that check payments are in rapid decline, replaced with the use of plastic. Debit cards, prepaid cards and credit cards dominate as payments, alongside cash. Checks only represent a small percentage of transactions. Banks and credit card issuers encourage the use of plastic as they can make far greater profits from the merchant fees they charge retailers to accept card payments.

Banks encourage the use of plastic through rewards programs and by developing new technologies such as contactless payments, which they convince retailers they cannot afford to be without. This inevitably piles more expenses onto retailer overheads, which in turn will be reflected in the higher price of goods.

Electronic bill payments are rapidly increasing and the traditional method of popping a check in the post declines. New technologies are emerging in the use of mobile payments. In the UK the Payments Council has set a date for cheque usage to cease by October 31st 2018, leaving plenty of time for a similar right to write checks campaign to be introduced there.

It will be interesting to see if the campaign has any influence in the way that businesses choose to accept payments, and if the emerging signs which state ‘no checks’ will be packed away in an effort to promote better customer service.