Freshhema was Criticized by the Central Bank to Be Illegal, Refusing to Accept Payment in Cash
COVID-19 and China

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

There is quite a lot news about Freshhema (Hema Xiansheng, 盒马鲜生) recently, as the symbol of China’s “new retail” backed by Alibaba. Besides the two news about the expired foods, one for carrots and another for coconut milk, consumers complained that the Freshhema's supermarket chain stores refuse to accept consumers’ payment in cash.

Shanghai Headquarter of the People’s Bank of China, the central bank of China, launched an investigation on this issue, and the result proved the complaint, that when shopping in stores of Freshhema, consumers could only use the company’s app to pay, the cash cannot be used.

Freshhema was then ordered by the central bank to make a change and to accept payment in cash. According to the news release on, Freshhema already started to accept payment in cash after the central bank’s demand.

Freshhema is actually a pioneer company in China’s “new retail” evolvement, however, the high speed of development makes it easier for the company to make mistakes, and its preeminence makes itself be the ideal target for the authority to make a good law-abiding example to the market and industry.

Mobile payment is hugely developed in China, consumers could pay with their smartphones almost everywhere in their everyday city life, without any cash. However, consumers who want to or can only pay in cash started to face the new problem, being rejected to use cash in some places.

July 13, 2018, the People's Bank of China issued an announcement stating that the legal tender of the People's Republic of China is the China Yuan/Ren Min Bi, including banknotes and coins. No company or individual may refuse payment in cash in any form.

Then if the rejection of payment in cash is illegal in China, would this regulation have a negative influence on the non-cash businesses? The authority has actually taken the fact of high development of mobile payment into account, thus the central bank also clarified that under the premise of accepting cash payments, the use of safe and legal non-cash payment instruments is still encouraged, to protect the consumers' right for choice. Non-cash payment instruments can be used through the Internet and other scenarios like unmanned sales channels, in which cash payment is somehow impossible or relatively inconvenient.

- Author: ZHANG Fan; Write to ZHANG Fan at

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