The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is looking to close the widening digital divide and has warned merchants that they must accept cash or face disciplinary action, Reuters reported on Tuesday (Dec. 15).
Most businesses in China have gone digital and some have stopped taking cash altogether, in part due to the coronavirus, but also as a means of cost control and user demand.
“Renminbi (yuan) cash is the most basic means of payment. Entities or individuals cannot refuse to accept it,” the PBOC said in a statement, per Reuters.
PCoB also said that any business or individual refusing cash or instituting discriminatory anti-cash policies would be subject to investigation.
Even before the pandemic accelerated digital adoption, online payments using QR codes, barcodes and third-party payment apps were gaining traction in China. The government had a hand in extending policies to advance technology.
But in a separate statement, it acknowledged that basic public services — medical treatment, water, electricity, gas fees — have transitioned to digital. The move has been a burden to the elderly who haven’t been able to adapt as easily as younger generations, the bank said.
“The innovation of consumption and payment methods should be conducive to … protect people’s livelihood and enhance the public’s sense of happiness,” the PBOC said in the notice, per Reuters.
The central bank suggested that anyone accepting payments of any kind should not exclude cash.
“Non-bank payment institutions must not promote the concept of cashless or discriminatory means of cash payment in any forms,” the bank said.
An Antitrust regulator in China — the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) — has launched a review into the proposed merger between DouYu International Holdings and Huya. The tie-up that would create a game-streaming site similar to Amazon’s Twitch.