Cards mean no cash for Ennis

The Clare Champion, Friday, September 11th, 1998

The days of pennies and small change rattling in pockets and cash registers will become a thing of the past thanks to the brave new world of a “cashless society” to be pioneered in Ennis. The move to make the Clare capital the “cashless capital” of Ireland is set to be up and running in November. This new phenomenon is to be kick started in Ennis thanks to the town’s status as Ireland’s first ‘Information Age Town’. The £4 million project is being spearheaded by Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland in association with Telecom Eireann, the instigators of Ennis’ ‘technology town status’.

Details of this new departure to operate for a twelve month trial period were unveiled this week to members of Ennis Urban District Council. It will pave the way for Ennis to join a select list of just eighteen cashless societies in the world. Other projects are up and running in Israel, Australia and Manhattan. In theory the change will mean that the familiar sight and sound of coins in cash registers will be phased out on a gradual basis as consumers will be able to purchase low value items with an electronic purse.

Up to 10,000 electronic purses or smart cards will be made available to the Ennis public, allowing them to purchase items in any of the town’s 337 retail outlets. A ceiling of £50 will be put on the value of any smart card. Under the initiative all the pubs and shops will have terminals to register transactions while the cards will be reloaded at special terminals throughout Ennis. Meanwhile, the banks plan to have a disposable card in time for the 1999 tourist season. Already, A.I.B. have lodged planning applications for nine stand alone electronic purse loading devices throughout Ennis.

A Telecom Eireann spokesman has confirmed that these smart cards will be given to the public free of charge while the charge to the retailers for the use of desktop and portable devices will be waived for the first six months of the pilot project. Telecom will also be providing terminals to 500 householders in Ennis where they will be able to reload their electronic purses. These will be distributed in the new year after the project is up and running. Forty public pay-phones are to be upgraded while twelve park-and-display machines are to be converted to allow payment with the electronic purse.

Those involved in the initiative are anxious that problems experienced in similar type projects around the world will not be replicated in Ennis. “In Leeds there has been a slow take-up of cards issued, while only in their phase two are they introducing stand alone terminals”, an A.I.B. spokesman said. As part of this process an information evening will take place next Wednesday for which all retailers in Ennis have been encouraged to attend.

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