Byers may halt cash machine charges

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT threatened to intervene yesterday to stop high street banks and building societies charging customers pounds 1 for every cash withdrawal from rivals' machines.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, warned that a decision to impose such charges could have competition implications and said he would seek a meeting with the institutions before they make a final decision early in the new year.

Mr Byers' warning came after a meeting of the members of Link, the UK- wide cash dispenser network, which decided in Harrogate yesterday to give tentative backing to calls by Barclays Bank to allow its members to charge rivals' customers who use their cash machines. They have asked a firm of independent consultants, Frontier Economics, to come up with proposals to secure agreement on charging for withdrawals at a further meeting in February.

The Nationwide, one of the institutions opposed to the plan, argued that the charge would hit poorer customers hardest, as they make smaller withdrawals. Significantly, a number of the big high street banks including NatWest, Abbey National and Lloyds TSB backed the Barclays proposals, virtually guaranteeing that it will be able to muster the 60 per cent majority needed to force the changes next time.

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