Small Change in a Cashless Society

The Clare Champion, Friday 1st October, 1999 by Gordon Deegan.

Ireland's Information Age Town is not about to become its first cashless society, if the poor response to the 4 million Ennis Visa Cash experiment is anything to go by.

Supporters of the project, which has been in operation since last November, have all but conceded that it has been a monumental failure with a very poor response recorded from the town's retailers and consumers.  Despite attracting a very low level of transactions since its high profile launch as part of the Information Age Town project, the Visa Cash trial is to be continued for a further six months after a review of the project by its promoters.

Almost a year ago, the project was launched by Allied Irish Banks (AIB), the Bank of Ireland (BOI) and Eircom, signalling the introduction of Ireland's first cashless society where consumers would be able to make small value purchases with a Visa Cash card or electronic purse.  Terminals were distributed to the town's 300 shops and 18 self-service loading devices were located throughout Ennis' streets, while the two major banks distributed the Visa Cash cards or electronic purses to their customers who could reload their cards with up to 50 from their bank accounts.  40 state-of-the-art telephones were also installed by Eircom which enabled the public to read the Visa Cash card's balance and accept payments.

However, the response to the project by retailers and consumers has been poor with an AIB spokesman confirming that a number of retailers have removed the terminals from their counters during the 12 month period.  The poor reaction by retailers to the one year trial is confirmed by a survey of ten Ennis businesses who participated in the project.

A spokesman for Downes and Howards stated that the business had recorded five Visa Cash transactions in the last month, while a spokeswoman for Dunnes Stores said that the project wasn't proving very popular.  Despite installing ten machines at its branch, Dunnes said there were just an average of two or three Visa Cash transactions a day.   A spokeswoman for O'Dowd's on Ennis' Turnpike Road said that maybe ten daily transactions were initially recorded but that number was now down to three or four.   Gerry Connellan of Abbey Newsagents described the project as "history", stating that over the last two months, no customer had asked to use the Visa Cash terminal.  He said that as a result of the low take up, he had removed the terminal from the counter. 

An AIB spokesman stated that in terms of actual transactions, the number had been   insignificant overall.  He said that the proposition was not suitable and that the volume of transactions suffered because terminals were not integrated with the shop's cash registers.  He added that, from evidence gathered, retailers did not favour the Visa Cash system.  He went on to point out that a more positive response was reccorded in the unattended terminals located in the town's car parks.  He said there would be a greater focus on the unattended terminal sector in the six month extension.   He added that no marketing campaign was planned for this period.  The spokesman said that a lot had been learned on a number of fronts during the year long trial and this was always the aim of the parties involved.  He said that the promoters of the project were happy with the part played by the retailer and consumer.

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