A pedestrian passes the headquarters of the People's Bank of China in Beijing. [Photo by Zhang Gang/For China Daily] BEIJING -- The People's Bank of China announced on Thursday that it punished 16 merchants and institutions for refusing to take payments in cash during the fourth quarter of 2020. The central bank punished 16 violators, including parks, public service institutions, parking lots and insurance companies, as part of a clampdown on the practice of refusing cash payments launched in October. The violators were issued with fines ranging from 500 yuan ($77.28) to 500,000 yuan, for posting "no cash" signs or simply refusing to take cash as payments, the central bank said. The PBOC launched its campaign last year in order to protect consumers' legal rights, as a growing number of businesses have gone cashless amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers who try to pay in cash but are prevented from doing so can lodge a complaint with the authorities, as such practices are illegal. The PBOC stated that it will continue to eradicate violations, improve channels for complaints and reporting, follow up on relevant leads, expose and punish breaches of the law, and effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.