More states and cites are fighting against cashless

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, retail sales plummeted 16.4% in April 2020. As state and local governments across the country begin to lift or ease Stay at Home Orders and business closures, retailers reopening their doors are grappling with how to protect their employees’ health and reassure customers that it is safe to shop.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers are adopting contactless delivery or curbside pickup business models. Curbside pickup allows customers using debit or credit to pay in advance and pick up their pre-packaged products without any direct physical contact with the business’ employees. Since many local governments and states have set maximum capacity limits for reopened retail stores, curbside pickup will likely remain a popular option for some consumers until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is discovered, or new cases drastically decline.

Businesses considering curbside pickup should beware that a growing number of states and cities have adopted laws requiring retailers to accept cash payment on certain transactions. Under U.S. Treasury Department guidance, federal law does not require that private businesses accept U.S. currency or coin as payment. Retailers can adopt policies limiting payment methods to debit, credit, or other electronic means like Square, Venmo, PayPal, or ApplePay unless limited by state or local law. Galvanized by concerns cashless businesses disadvantage communities with poor access to traditional banking systems, a national movement protecting consumers’ ability to pay in cash may be emerging.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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