Banks called to account for ATM fees

Banks called to account for ATM fees

The UK government is to call an urgent meeting with banking chiefs and independent ATM operators to discuss why consumers are charged £140m a year for withdrawing their own money from cash machines.

Treasury minister Ivan Lewis has agreed to meet representatives of the banking industry, ATM operators, the Treasury committee and the financial inclusion taskforce "within weeks" following accusations that the government was "passing the buck" on the issue of fee-charging cash machines.

In a House of Commons debate, John McFall, who chaired a Treasury Select Committee investigation into ATM charging last year, said fee-charging was surrounded by a "veil of secrecy" and the government should be engaging in a "serious, systematic analysis of the issue".

During the debate MPs told Lewis that consumers are still confused over which ATMs would charge them for withdrawing cash. MPs also voiced concerns about a lack of free-to-use ATMs in poorer areas.

The debate followed the publication of a damning report into fee-charging cash machines by the Treasury Select Committee in March last year. The report called for clearer labeling of fee-charging ATMs. The Link Interchange Network subsequently introduced new regulations on signage in July but has rejected proposals from high street banks Nationwide and Halifax for machines to display clearer colour-coded signs.

Five years ago virtually all ATMs in the UK were free, but now around 23,000 of the UK's 56,000 ATMs charge customers for withdrawing cash. According to forecasts by the Nationwide, UK bank customers will pay £250m to withdraw their own money from fee-charging cash machines in 2006.

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