In recent months, the Bowthorpe News has featured articles on the difficulty some have in adjusting to the use of technology in our daily lives, and one issue that seems to be of most concern is the replacement of hard cash by the use of plastic or ‘digital’ money.
It may seem odd but the safest way to pay for anything over £100 is with a credit card. Under ‘Section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act (1974), if any purchase with a credit card is not honoured, for whatever reason, the credit card company must refund the payee the full amount. No other method of payment offers this much protection and, if the balance is cleared on time, no charge will be made.
Another growing trend is paying household bills, etc, by Direct Debit as opposed to cash or cheque. However, compared to other methods of payment, especially prepay meters (which are the most expensive), a Direct Debit is the cheapest way to pay regular bills and usually offers additional savings to the consumer.
The use of bank cards can be another headache for many. ‘Contactless’ cards can make payments of up to £30 without using the PIN number and, therefore, if lost or stolen, could be used by someone else, although any irregular payments would usually be refunded by the bank, and most stores are widely covered by CCTV cameras to identify the user. Cash machines are also equipped with CCTV, and, although three attempts are offered to activate the card, the odds of anyone guessing the exact four-digit number are 10,000 to 1.
Finally, with many large retailers disappearing from the high street, it seems that increasingly the only place to buy anything these days is on the internet. While many people enjoy the experience of browsing the shops, the advantage of buying online is that it is considerably quicker, usually cheaper and available 24/7. If an article is damaged or faulty, retailers must offer a refund or deliver a replacement product, and the same 28 days to return the item if it is unsatisfactory still applies.
Of course, all this does mean that the customer has to entrust their bank details with someone else. However, it is actually extremely difficult to unlawfully withdraw money from a bank account (and get away with it) even with this information. A shop or cash machine would require the actual card and PIN number. Buying online would be traceable to an address and an individual or company, as would the transfer of money into another bank account, which usually requires some additional information, such as a date of birth, a postcode or the answer to a security question – or all three. No, the system is not perfect and can be abused, but there are enough checks and balances to at least offer some reassurance that it is as reliable and secure as can reasonably be expected.
Brian Lamont, features editor