MP attacks ATM charges as 'cynical exploitation' of public

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The Independent Online

A Travelex cash machine in London's Leicester Square will tomorrow be condemned by a backbench MP as an example of "cynical exploitation" of the public.

James Plaskitt, the Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington and a member of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, will make the allegation when he opens what will be the first debate in the House of Commons on cash machines that charge the public.

In 2000 the main banks agreed not to add charges to withdrawals from cash machines, otherwise known as automated teller machines (ATMs). Since then, private operators have sprung up, installing their own machines in locations away from bank branches, such as supermarkets and petrol stations.

These typically charge £1.50, however little cash is withdrawn, and are seen as being unfavourable to poor people. The machines are supposed to have clear notices stating that there will be a charge.

Mr Plaskitt will say: "I wonder why there is so much argument about slot machines and casinos when there are already 20,000 one-armed bandits on the high street. Charges can account for a significant percentage of the cash withdrawn. The hole in the wall is also the hole in your pocket."

He is accusing some operators of flouting voluntary codes on ATM signage and will cite as an example an ATM belonging to the foreign currency group Travelex in Leicester Square. He claims it gives no prior warning of a charge for cash withdrawals.

Mr Plaskitt believes the current voluntary code overseen by the Link network is not working because of the vested interest of the major banks, and is calling on the Department of Trade and Industry to enforce proper transparency, including the use of clear external signs.

A spokesman for Travelex said: "Every Travelex ATM gives customers the option of proceeding with the transaction after informing them of the charge on screen. The Leicester Square machine has a small label on the right-hand side warning of the charge."