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ONTARIO - Canadian supermarket operator Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is the latest on a growing list of Canadian retailers to nix the check payment method, the National Post reports.
At the end of the month, Loblaws' 72 Ontario stores will stop accepting personal checks.
"Checks have slipped to less than 2 percent of all of our tender," said Geoff Wilson, spokesman for Loblaw. Ten years ago, he said, checks represented about 25 percent of payment. That is a familiar story in retail, according to the Interac Association, which oversees Canada's direct debit payment system. The association says that in 1997, 7 percent of shoppers paid for goods with a check, but by 2001 that figure had fallen to just 2 percent.
The popularity of direct debit is largely credited with displacing personal check use. Interac reports that it logged 2.2 billion transactions in 2001, accounting for the lion's share of all retail transactions and surpassing even the use of cash.
And the Canadian Payments Association reports that check use is dropping by 2 percent to 3 percent annually, a decline driven by proliferating payment options open to consumers and the fact that checks pose a greater credit risk to retailers than other forms of payment.
Loblaws will join Wal-Mart Stores, Sears Canada Inc. stores, The Bay and Zellers outlets, all of who ceased accepting personal checks in the past five years.
"Checks were slowing down the process of moving people through [cash register lines]," said Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart. "Fewer and fewer people were using them, and as debit use grew so quickly we found that check use just fell. If there were significant demand I expect we would accept them," said Pelletier, who added that Wal-Mart continues to accept customers' government issued checks.
Still, not everyone has given up on checks. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. supermarkets, which include A&P and Dominion stores in Ontario, is just one retailer who continues to accept check payment.
"Checks don't constitute nearly the volume they once did, but we consider accepting them a service to customers," said Doug Brummer, spokesman for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea.
George Weston Ltd., the majority shareholder in Loblaw, has no plans to change check policy for its other supermarket chains, which include NoFrills and Fortinos, and Loblaws' 28 stores in Quebec.