Constitutional right to pay in cash fails to get support in Czech Senate

A group of senators has been pushing for increased protection for people who want to live offline without payment cards or a digital identity. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.02.2023 14:30:00 (updated on 16.02.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Going cashless has become increasingly common on an international scale, with many vendors eliminating hard currency in favor of card payment or digital apps. Cultural venues, street festivals, outdoor concerts, and eateries worldwide are also embracing electronic payment as the preferred monetary transaction of the future.

The Czech Republic has long been considered a trailblazer in this area, however, many smaller restaurants and shops outside of the capital remain strongholds of cash-only payment and, according to research from 2021, some 20 percent of Czechs prefer to make cash-in-hand payments.

The right to do so, however, won’t be protected in the Czech Constitution following the Senate's rejection of a proposal on Wednesday to make paying by cash a constitutional right.

The move to make cash-only payments a constitutional right was spearheaded by independent Senator Jitka Chalánková who said that many Czechs fear that cashless payments will become mandatory as digitization spreads, according to news server České noviný.

She said that a large segment of the Czech population doesn't want having a card or bank identity to become mandatory due to privacy issues and data protection. Others find paying in cash more convenient.

Proponents for amending the constitution to protect a consumer's right to hand over cash say that such payments aren't constitutionally protected in any European Union state, and Czechia could be a pioneer. Having the protection on a constitutional level would protect the right from EU-mandated changes.

Czechia, for example, added protections for gun ownership to the Charter of Fundamental Rights so that future EU directives couldn’t weaken them.

Current law already requires businesses to accept cash

Opponents of the amendment say that a simple change to existing laws would suffice, as far as cash payments are concerned. Senator Jan Holásek said the Law on the Circulation of Banknotes and Coins already requires businesses to accept cash, but it currently lacks penalties for those retailers who do otherwise.

The Senate rejected the proposal to amend the Charter of Fundamental Rights saying the constitutional order should only be changed for exceptional cases and that updating the existing law with sanctions for non-compliance would be sufficient. Until then, there is little a consumer can do when a business refuses to accept cash.

And it looks like cashless payments in Czechia are set to become the norm. Many merchants have been phasing out cash payments due to the high costs of managing cash. They also prefer non-cash payments because of the need for insurance and other complications, Echo24 reported when the proposal was made.

An opinion piece in, though, says that central banks including the Czech National Bank are already preparing for a cash-free future, as the young generation prefers to use credit cards instead of cash.

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