Today,(Thursday 25 January 2018) I co-signed a letter to the Payment Systems Regulator, Hannah Nixon, with a number of other MPs to call for more to be done to protect free-to-cash ATMs. This is a cross-party letter designed to raise awareness of the loss of ATMs in our high streets and to warn about the threat of current ATMs transforming from free-to-cash to pay-to-cash.
This follows proposals put forward by the LINK Board, one of the largest ATM providers in the UK, that will see a 20 per cent reduction in the interchange fee, with the first five per cent reduction introduced this April. It has been warned that this will result in a significant reduction in the number of free-to-cash machines available in the UK and that once implemented, options to reverse the reduction are limited. These proposals are driven by a minority of organisations who want to reduce their own costs, to the detriment of constituents.
The letter states that as concerns over the impact of these proposals have already been raised by a number of parties, we do not believe that awaiting a decision from LINK on whether to implement their proposals is an adequate response from the PSR, and steps should have already been taken to prevent any consumer detriment. With a decision from LINK expected at the end of this month, we would welcome clarity on what actions your office has taken to assess the impact of these proposals, and whether comprehensive steps have been taken to mitigate consumer detriment. If this has not been done, we would urge you to take action immediately to pause the progress of these proposals until a comprehensive and independent review of the impact of the proposals have been undertaken.
The letter also calls for clarity on proposals from LINK to protect ATMs a kilometre from the nearest access point and the expanded Financial Inclusion Programme.
The proposals by LINK to dramatically increase the number of ATMs which charge you to access your own money is deeply concerning. The frustration people feel when they reach an ATM only to find that it will charge you anything up to £2.80 to get to your own money is well known. We need the regulator to take action on this and ensure that a handful of powerful ATM providers are not able to undermine the ability for people to access their cash for free.
The number of high street bank branches has declined rapidly in recent years meaning that people have had to rely on the Post Office – where there is one – or an ATM. When you combine this dramatic decline in bank branches with this threat of charges to use ATMs we can see it will have a detrimental impact on communities and local businesses.
Our high streets are vital for securing a sense of place and community. If LINK are allowed to undermine their future we will be far worse off for it.