Danish government proposes getting rid of the obligation for certain retailers to accept payment in cash
3:55PM BST 06 May 2015
The Danish government has proposed getting rid of the obligation for selected retailers to accept payment in cash, moving the country closer to a "cashless" economy.
Nearly a third of the Danish population uses MobilePay, a smartphone application for transferring money to other phones and shops, and Sweden, Denmark and Finland lead the European Union in credit card payments per inhabitant.
The Danish government said as of next year, businesses such as clothing retailers, petrol stations and restaurants should no longer be legally-bound to accept cash.
The proposal is part of a pre-election package of economic growth measures aimed at reducing costs and increasing productivity for businesses. It would need to be approved by parliament, although the timing of a vote is as yet unknown.
The proposal is unlikely to meet much opposition in Denmark, where it is common to use debit or credit cards for the smallest of payments.
Financial institution lobbyist Finansraadet said going cashless would save shops money on security and time on managing change from tills.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
However, there are some fears that a complete move to electronic payment may increase the risk of fraud. In Sweden, for example, such cases have doubled in the past decade.
Denmark's biggest bank and owner of MobilePay, Danske Bank, has taken steps to prevent fraud by linking the app to NemID, a digital signature linked to the Danish equivalent of individuals' National Insurance number.
Bill Gates, the founder and former chief executive of Microsoft, is a vocal supporter of the movement towards cashless societies and argues it would encourage banks to provide services to the world's poorest, due to the low marginal costs.
However, German central banker Carl-Ludwig Thiele cited economic data, freedom of choice and even Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky in a passionate defence of banknotes and coins on Wednesday.
"Abolishing cash would hurt consumer sovereignty - the free choice of citizens about their payment instruments," Mr Thiele, who oversees cash management and payment and settlement systems at the Bundesbank, said.
"Government agencies do not have the right to tell citizens how they should pay."
Mr Thiele said cash was still used in nearly 80pc of transactions, while the value of that cash accounted for 53pc of all money exchanged.
"Each person chooses the instrument that best meets the requirements in their eyes. As Dostoyevsky said in 1861: 'Money is coined liberty'."