Almost four years late to the game, British banks will soon have to accept photos of cheques captured via smartphones, reducing the processing time from six days to two, according to the UK Treasury.

Banks like JP Morgan Chase in the US have accepted and processed photos of cheques since 2010. Specifically, Chase customers are allowed to whip out their smartphone, then open the Chase mobile app, snap a picture of a cheque, deposit the amount, and be on their merry way.

The UK has long-opposed this functionality, however, with British banks having the legal right to see physical cheques before accepting and processing them. But the UK government is now ready to embrace electronic cheques. It has passed a new law called Check 21 that makes electronic cheques perfectly legal.

"We want to see more innovation so that customers see the benefits of new technologies," Financial Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC. He also admitted the Treasury wanted cheques to still have a crucial role in the ongoing success of the UK.

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In conjunction with the new Check 21 law, Barclays will launch a pilot programme in April 2014 that accepts and processes photos of cheques captured via smartphones. The banking service will eventually launch for all customers some time in late 2014.

It seems this new law will mostly affect individuals. The BBC said that 10 per cent of all payments by individuals in 2012 were made by cheque, while businesses accounted for a whopping 25 per cent of cheque payments during the same year.

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