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Pensioner revolt over bank's 'cashless' bid

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Pensioner revolt over bank's 'cashless' bid
10:43 CEST+02:00
A pensioners' rights group in central Sweden has accused a Swedish bank of discrimination over plans to end cash handling services at local branch offices.

"Scrapping the handling of cash within the banking world can, generally speaking, be considered as discriminating against the age group we represent," a local chapter of the National Pensioners' Organisation (Pensionärernas Riksorganisation – PRO) wrote in its complaint, according to the local Nya Wermlands-Tidning.

The complaint, to be sent to Sweden's Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen – DO) by the local PRO chapter in Frykerud in central Sweden, comes in response to plans by Swedbank Värmland to remove cash-handling services from all of its branches in Värmland County, save for one branch office in Karlstad.

Swedbank's plans to go cashless, slated to go into effect on May 1st, will make it impossible for people outside Karlstad to withdraw from or deposit cash in their bank accounts, the group alleges.

"Those of us who live outside of Karlstad – a majority of the population in Värmland, consider Swedbank's plans to be incredibly discriminatory," the complaint continues.

According to PRO, the move will hit pensioners especially hard, as many cannot or do not want to use bank cards or internet banking services, making them more dependent on carrying out transactions using cash.

Forcing pensioners in need of cash to make the journey to Karlstad is an unfair demand for the bank to place on its customers.

Ahead of the filing of the discrimination complaint, local newspapers were flooded with angry letters from pensioners protesting Swedbank's decision.

"After having polio as a child, I'm wheelchair bound. I, and many like me, can't manage using a cash machine," Inger Vestergård wrote in a letter to the local Värmlands Folkblad newspaper.

"Waiting in line at a money machine is a problem for us. And now it's also fashionable to rob pensioners and handicapped."

Swedbank spokesperson Anna Sundblad told The Local that the bank "takes the complaint seriously".

"We consider all complaints like this to be a failure on our part," she said.

Sundblad explained that the rationale behind the decision is Swedbank's belief that the use of cash is on the decline.

"There are many alternatives to cash," said Sundblad.

"We believe that using a bank card is a safer and more secure method of payment."

She emphasised that the decision to remove cash services in Värmland was taken regionally and added that the bank is open to exploring ways to help pensioners make the transition to a cashless society.

"We expect to have discussions about the various problems that may affect individual customers," she said.

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