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.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport