Charging ATMs and the case for remote control

Sam Dunn asks if the reform calls of MPs will restore free money for poorer families in cashpoint deserts

The Post Office was in the doghouse, fears abounded of poor communities paying over the odds for cash and vociferous demands were made for banks to act more responsibly.

The Post Office was in the doghouse, fears abounded of poor communities paying over the odds for cash and vociferous demands were made for banks to act more responsibly.

It was business as usual last week for the Treasury Select Committee - a body that has become a persistent attack dog for consumers against the financial services industry - as it tore into the UK's network of charging cash machines.

Reporting back after its inquiry into the explosive growth of cashpoints that charge up to £1.75 for a withdrawal, it stressed all consumers had a right to "good access" to free ATMs.

Poorer families who take out small sums often would suffer in particular if the growth of charging ATMs - currently accounting for some 40 per cent of the UK's 53,000 total - continued unchecked, said John Mc- Fall, chairman of the committee and Labour MP for Dumbarton.

The issue of those on low incomes getting access to free cash should now be looked at as part of the Government's Financial Inclusion Task Force, said the committee's report.

Britons were charged £140m to withdraw money from charging machines last year, although just 3.7 per cent of all ATM transactions take place at these cashpoints, which are often found in rural or inner-city areas.

Mr McFall added that banks needed to "think carefully" before selling off free machines - a trend likely to continue in remote regions - and that poor fee-warning signs on charging ATMs meant many operators were "not being straight and fair".

With three-quarters of its branch ATMs levying a fee, the Post Office came in for censure. The report called on the Government to find out if it was ever envisaged that 75 per cent of the network's cash machines would charge up to £1.50.

The Post Office had a "unique opportunity" to tackle financial exclusion in communities, it said, and so should "fundamentally re-examine its policy".

Now that benefits are paid direct into bank accounts, there are concerns that the vulnerable will be hit hardest by a lack of free ATMs. At the moment, independent operators that install charging machines are able to dictate the terms of a contract with post offices and sub-post offices.

This does "not provide [a] result in the best interests of the local community", the report said, adding that customers in post offices were being charged £10m a year to withdraw cash.

The report also pointed to a lack of transparency. New rules already agreed in the industry for bigger and clearer warning signs on charging ATMs come into force on 1 July, but these are unlikely to be enough, the committee warned.

It wants each machine to inform users of the amount they will be charged, and the on-screen fee warning to be written in a larger size.

Other requests made by the committee included a call for independent operators such as Cardpoint and Bank Machine to join the Banking Code and to abide by its voluntary "good practice" guidelines, which aim to protect the consumer.

It also asked the Office of Fair Trading to conduct research into the geographical distribution of cash machines, and the Banking Code Standards Board to develop "alert" proposals for ATMs so people know when the last free cashpoint in a certain area is about to be closed down.

Consumer groups broadly welcomed the report and Stuart Bernau, director of Nationwide building society, called it "the last chance to protect free cash machines in the UK".

A spokesman for the Post Office reiterated that its policy of well-signposted charging ATMs was clear to customers, and that it made no profit from the machines. Free cash via its counter service for bank customers meant that millions of low-income customers could get free access to their money, he said.

Despite the committee's calls, it has no powers to enforce its recommendations.

The Government must now draw up its official response, and this is expected by June, although an election might hold the process up. When it does report back, that will probably prompt a renewed debate in the House of Commons.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003