20 Aug 2012 by Gottfried Leibbrandt

Rumors of the death of checks are greatly exaggerated

In Canada, France, the UK and the US the use of checks is in constant decline, although still used for a significant number of payments. In Germany and Belgium checks continued to be used at low levels, whereas in the Netherlands checks were actively phased out altogether in 2001. It is, however, difficult to completely retire a payment instrument as the UK found in 2011 when they attempted to withdraw the check altogether. They were met with fierce consumer and political resistance and were forced to scrap their plans. Checks can be compared to the telex as an intermediate technology; better than what they replaced (phone / mail / cash), but eventually driven out by more efficient electronic networks. The telex gained adoption in the 1960s, and continued to grow through the early 80s. With the rise of electronic networks like SITA (airline industry) and SWIFT (banks), the number of telex subscribers began to decline as of 1987. In the case of SWIFT, it wasn’t until the network gained critical mass before the banks began to decommission the telex. What will it take for checks to be decommissioned?

Download chapter 7, Rumors of the death of checks are greatly exaggerated, here.


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