Austria’s government has announced plans to enshrine a person’s right to physical cash in the country’s constitution. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)


Austria calls for cash use in stores to be made a ‘constitutional right’


The Austrian Government has announced plans to enshrine the right to use physical cash as part of the country’s constitution.

Previously rumoured in Austria’s national press, the move was formally announced by Chancellor Karl Nehammer on August 4.

According to the Austrian leader, the proposed amendments are aimed not just at ensuring citizens have the right to use cash in stores but that they also have “easy access” to cash through ATMs.

“More and more people are worried that cash could be restricted as a means of payment in Austria,” Nehammer told the press.

“People must have security that cash remains a means of payment,” he added. “And they must have a basic supply of cash within a reasonable distance.”

Nehammer also expressed support for the introduction of the “digital Euro” the European Central Bank is planning to issue in the near future, although that does not affect his stand on protection for the use of physical currencies.

“Everyone should be able to freely decide how and with what they want to pay,” the Chancellor insisted.

“That can be by card, by bank transfer, maybe in the future also with the digital euro but also with cash.”

While many countries across the European Union have seen a substantial drift towards cashless payments in recent years, both Germany and Austria have remained significant outliers with much of their populations sticking with notes and coins for purchases.

Elsewhere, officials have expressed concerns regarding the declining status of physical cash, which many say has led to uncertainty on the position thanks to “ambiguities” in EU-level regulations.

It is particularly unclear whether stores and restaurants within the bloc that chose to operate cashlessly are acting in breach of EU law, with the European Commission recently saying it was making efforts to “solidify” rules surrounding the issue.

The lack of clarity can also be seen at the national level, with the European Parliament in Brussels raising eyebrows over the insistence of some vendors to operate with cards only.

While that seems to go against Belgian law, according to the country’s Federal Public Service Economy, one store proprietor in the Parliament environs has insisted that its staff are legally entitled to refuse physical cash.