The Central Bank is launching a major national campaign to persuade consumers and businesses to stop using cash and cheques in favour of online transactions.
Dame Street mandarins calculate that it would save the Irish economy €1bn a year to increase the use of electronic payments with debit cards, smartphones and online transfers and is tendering for ad agencies to power a major marketing drive with a budget of up to €1m.
The State itself is setting an example – it is one of the heaviest users of cheques, but from September government departments and local authorities will no longer use them.
Irish people use cash and cheques to a much greater extent than other European countries and are the second biggest users of cheques in the EU. The value of withdrawals from ATMs is 66 per cent higher here than the EU average. Irish businesses are heavy users of cheques with over 50 per cent of those written made payable to businesses. The campaign aims to win the "hearts and minds" of consumers and merchants and change the behaviours of both consumers and businesses, the tender document says. It's a major advertising spend in the current climate, where a big-promotion budget spend is considered to be in the region of €500,000 outside of the big global blue-chips.
A group of representatives from businesses, consumer groups, banks and government departments have been driving a plan to persuade the public and companies to embrace cashless transactions. The National Payments plan aims to double the number of debit-card and other electronic payments and transfers over the next year and to slash cash and cheque use.
Half of that budget is aimed at users of the social welfare system to change habits in how they collect children's allowance, disability payments and benefits. The Department of Social Welfare makes 87 million payments to customers each year, with only 42 per cent of claimants being paid electronically. Some 1.4 million people receive some kind of social welfare payment every week, with 57 per cent of them being made either by cheque or through the Post Office.
New electronic options from companies such as payments firm Realex have increased the options among retailers and consumers to pay or receive money without ever handling cash.
Realex recently launched its Realex Fire product to compete directly with banks and eliminate the need for current accounts with an instant-payment system without transaction fees.
State-owned AIB last month launched its mobile-to-mobile payments facility allowing customers to ping amounts of up to €300 to each other using a smartphone app.
Advertising agencies have until March 5 to submit a tender to the Central Bank, with the awarding of the contract to take place in mid-April.