Whether it be because the EU is staying true to its pledge to protect the freedom and well-being of its citizens, or because it wishes to increase its relevance and importance in the mind of Europeans, the matter is of no small importance. The Court of Justice of the European Union, through its Advocate General, Giovanni Pitruzzella, could put an end to a creeping campaign led by private organizations to discontinue physical currency. The motion aims to protect vulnerable citizens and fundamental liberties.
The numerous enemies of cash
The war on currency started so long ago that few agree on the birth year. But a ball park date would be the 1960s and 1970s, when alternative payment methods started slowly replacing banknotes in transactions. Nowadays, countless options are offered to consumers during their purchases. CSR reports that “electronic forms of payment have become increasingly available, convenient, and cost efficient due to technological advances in digitization and data processing. Anecdotal reporting and certain analyses suggest that businesses and consumers are increasingly eschewing cash payments in favor of electronic payment methods.” Along the way, many organizations saw in the societal shift an opportunity, and started trying to rush it, against public interest or, at the very least, disregarding it. Now that consumers in the EU have a large pallet of payment options, these organizations realized that cash held its ground, and that numerous daily transactions were still being carried out with good old-fashioned banknotes. And this is where, gradually, push came to shove.
Big Tech wishes to increase profit
There are two reasons why financial service companies wish to eradicate hard currency. The first one is direct: with a small commission paid in every digital transaction, it takes no genius to figure out why these companies would wish to increase the number of non-cash payments on markets. The Congressional Research Service released a global study in 2019, stating that “Such trends have led analysts and policymakers to examine the possibility that the use and acceptance of cash will significantly decline in coming years and to consider the effects of such an evolution.” The second reason is indirect. While banks and financial institutions can sometimes be creative and at the tip of ingenuity,