One of Norway’s leading financial confederations has said the country should be cashless by 2020. Currently, cash is used in only five percent of Norwegian transactions. However, critics say people should be able to buy things without a ‘trace’.
Finans Norge – which represents 200 financial institutions and financial groups active in the country – has advocated the complete elimination of cash-based transactions in Norway, stating that a no-cash policy could prevent problems with financial crime, robberies and ‘black money’.
“Cash now represents such a small proportion of payments in the society, that we could well do without it,” said a statement published on the Finans Norge website on Monday.
The confederation pointed out that there was an 8.6 percent growth in card use in the first half of this year, that Norwegians have been taking out increasingly less cash from ATMs and shops, and that “it costs society a lot to handle cash.”
Finans Norge additionally points out that cash is used in only five percent of transactions in Norway with only Sweden and the UK having a lower level of cash usage than Norway.
However, critics and privacy advocates stated that the total elimination of cash could have disturbing implications for individuals’ privacy. “It must be possible to be able to pay for goods and services without registering,” Guri Melby of the Liberal (Venstre) party told Norway’s ‘News in English’ website.
“We also think it is naive to believe that crime disappears by removing cash,” said Melby. “We already see today that crime is moving to new areas. There is just as much fraud of bank cards and electronic payment methods, and we also see new payment methods, like for example Bitcoin, pop up.”
“The opportunity for crime and fraud does not depend on what type of payment methods we have in society.”
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority – Datatilsynet – has also spoken out, saying that it is important that people can make purchases without an electronic trace being left behind them.
“From a policy perspective, it is primarily a concern that you cannot pay for anything anonymously,” Bjørn Erik Thon from Datatilsynet told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK).