Consumer group calls on payments watchdog to stand up against ATM closures

Consumer group calls on payments watchdog to stand up against ATM closures

Plans to shut down loss-making ATMs across Britain could leave hundreds of communities without ready access to cash, says consumer group Which?.

Which? is worried that proposals from Link - the UK’s largest cash machine network - to lower its fees by 20% could lead to mass closures of free-to-use ATM machines in struggling rural communities that are already feeling the impact of the retreat from the high street by the nation's largest banks.

The consumer champion conducted research which identified over 200 communities in Britain with poor ATM provision, or no cash machines at all, which might be hardest hit by proposals that could reduce the network.

Which? analysed Link data on 70,000 cash machines across the UK. It found that 123 postcode districts - with a combined population of 110,935 - did not appear to contain a single ATM, making many consumers reliant on access in nearby villages or towns. Meanwhile, a further 116 postcode districts appear to have just one ATM, 37 of which charge a fee.

Link has said it will encourage operators to keep free machines and to protect free-to-use ATMs that are a kilometre or more from the next nearest free cash machine. However, Cardtronics, the biggest ATM operator in the UK, expects that those hit hardest would not be busy high streets, but ATMs in rural communities.

Which? is calling on the Payment Systems Regulator to conduct an urgent review to fully evaluate the impact that these changes could have on consumers.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert says: “These proposals could place a strain on communities across the UK that are already struggling to access the cash they need following mass bank closures. The financial regulator must intervene to avoid this situation getting worse.”

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 January, 2018, 11:471 like 1 like

Who pays for the cost of handling cash? Consumers - not in any visible, direct way. Merchants - yes through deposits of daily takings including cash in transit services. Banks - yes through cost for free of charge atm cash withdrawals. How is the cash handling cost covered? Merchants have included cash cost in pricing of goods. Banks are charging among others mortgage and investment customers and cardholders interest and fees in order also to cover their atm transaction losses.  same with merchants. So cash free consumers are subsidising cash users through overpricing of various goods and services. The Swedish central bank in 2012 established that debit cards are cheaper to both merchants and society than cash payments. Since then the cost for debit cards has gone down, partly due to the interchange fee regulation in 2016, but also due to rapid volume growth giving better scale benefits, while cash handling costs have gone up due to negative scale benefits from dropping volumes and from managing increasing security concerns. So cash access and usage should not be free unless the government wants to subsidise it with taxpayer monies. And then it becomes a political issue - who wants to pay for somebody else´s cash usage?

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 19 January, 2018, 13:24Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Protecting unnecessary costs - not consumers. Cash is the oil for the grey economy and crime.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 19 January, 2018, 13:271 like 1 like

So we are paying also for backward lookin organisations that employ themselves by causing harm to innocent consumers. Is it really so difficult to understand who pay every cent of merchant costs? And cost of crime and grey economy - and millions of tons of CO2 and and..