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MPs want to introduce a tax on using self-service checkouts

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

3 June 2019

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Both retailers and shoppers should take note of new plans put forward by a parliamentary group led by MP Chuka Umunna.

In a report called ‘Healing the generational divide’, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration has proposed a ‘tax’ on using self-service checkout machines.

The thinking is that instead of interacting with a faceless machine, shoppers might be more inclined to pay at a checkout staffed by a human.

The money made will go into a pot set aside for local intergenerational projects – but retailers have slammed the idea.

Would you pay 1p to use a self-service checkout?

The report suggests: “We spend increasing amounts of time interacting with faceless technology, such as self-service checkouts, oyster card readers and coffee machines, at the expense of daily human interactions with people of a variety of ages.”

To tackle this, the group wants to explore a “1p per transaction” charge on self-service machines.

This could raise £30 million of funds to go straight into local intergenerational projects. The APPG reached that figure using data from Morrisons:

  • Morrisons have 491 stores and around 24,000 customers a store each week, meaning they’ll have around 617 million checkouts a year
  • they have a 10.5 per cent market share – scaled up, this suggests just under six billion supermarket checkouts a year
  • industry sources have informally suggested to the parliamentary group that around half of checkouts are now self-service, leading to the £30 million figure

The group wants local authorities to have control over the projects the money goes to – or, it suggests customers could vote on where the money goes at the end of a transaction.

It says that Brexit has “demonstrated the need to strengthen ties between different generations”, and hopes that getting people talking at checkouts is one way for this to happen.

The policy could ‘harm’ retailers and shoppers

Retailers and shoppers alike have slammed the proposal.

Tom Ironside, from the trade body for supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium, told the Sun: "A new tax, particularly one that penalises modern shopping behaviour, will harm both consumers and retailers at a time when retailers are rightly focused on delivering the best value for shoppers.”

And Dici Kumar, who works at a corner shop, told MailOnline that while it doesn’t sound like a bad idea in general, “I don't think it will go down well with the younger generations. And the idea that could bring people together to help solve Brexit is just ludicrous.

“I'm not sure charging people for doing something that has become such an ordinary part of everyday life will work.”

What do you think? Does this plan have good intentions, or is it just a bad idea? Let us know in the comments below.

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