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Coronavirus in Belgium: Can shops refuse cash payments?

Card payments replacing cash
16:07 26/05/2020

One of the early and unexpected impacts of coronavirus on daily life has been cash — or more specifically, cash transactions.

Supermarkets and shops selling essential items started restricting cash payments at the beginning of the crisis. The federal government invited them to limit as much as possible cash payments from customers, but did not completely ban them.

Since then, and with other shops re-opening, customers have been following advice to restrict handling coins and bills. Some stores offer one till where cash payments can be made and there’s been a sharp rise in the use of contactless debit cards.

But although cash transactions are not illegal, some customers have been turned away from major stores, reports RTL.

It cites examples of people not being able to pay in cash at some outlets of Quick, Ikea, and a DIY store.

The spokesperson for Comeos - the federation representing major retail and supermarket chains - Hans Cardyn, called on the common sense of citizens: “There’s no change, we have been asking clients to pay by card for the past two months. In stores, the majority of tills take cards, a minority accept cash. I don’t understand why some people still want to pay with cash when everyone is asked to avoid it.”

On the question of accepting cash, he told RTL: “For people who don’t have a card, we’re willing to make an exception, but we don’t want to start simply accepting it because some people don’t want to change their habits. It’s a question of public health and respect for check-out staff who are in contact with a lot of people in a day.”

SPF Economy spokesperson Florence Angelici pointed out: “The store, on condition of communicating it clearly and in advance, can exclude payment in cash. The customer can insist or turn to another store that accepts cash.”

The department’s inspectors were not responsible for monitoring compliance with legal provisions, she added.

Staff protection was the reason Ikea took the decision to not accept cash in its stores in Belgium on re-opening on 11 May, said the Swedish furniture chain.

“We have also set up information reminders before entering stores. We make sure that citizens are aware. We do our best to keep everyone well informed to avoid disappointment,” said spokesperson Colombine Nicolay.

Concerning the refusal to accept cash, Ikea’s legal department checked that as long it informed clients before they made a purchase, it was respecting the rules, she added.

A similar sentiment was expressed by fast-food chain Quick, which said it wanted to ensure the safety of its employees and customers. “Payments are made by card, preferably contactless, and the payment terminal is regularly disinfected,” said spokesperson Annelies Vantvelt.

Photo: Getty Images



Written by Sarah Crew


Frank Lee

This was happening even before the coronavirus crisis. More and more places are refusing cash transactions, particularly places that sell food, because switching constantly from handling food and handling cash isn't safe, except if you use a lot of gloves or disinfectant, but it's still a tedious task.

Jun 1, 2020 11:01