Bill seeks to secure future of ATMs in rural areas

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A new bill seeking to ensure the provision of cash machines in the future was tabled in Parliament yesterday, heavily criticising Link’s decision to reduce the interchange fees paid to ATM operators.

Ged Killen’s bill seeks to provide a legal requirement for access to cash withdrawals through ATMs or other means where there is a demand for it. Such demand would be established through a full market review of the ATM network by the Payment Systems Regulator. The bill would also remove charges for ATM transactions so that all ATMs would be free-to-use.

In the motion to bring forward the bill, Killen said: “Link accepts that it wants to reduce the overall number of ATMs and says it expects this reduction to happen in city centres, where there are large clusters of ATMs, but there is simply no way of guaranteeing this effect.

“With different ATM companies working to different models across the UK, it is inevitable that there will be unintended consequences, and it is people in rural communities or smaller urban towns such as the ones I represent who are most likely to lose out.”

Currently, the business rates for ATM machines are calculated on the basis of their turnover – the number of transactions processed by the machine. As a result, free to use cash machines are far more expensive to operate than charged machines which have typically far lower usage levels.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), said: “Convenience store customers still value cash as their primary method of payment, with cash machines in stores also enabling customers to shop with other local businesses, stalls and markets that are not set up to take card payments.

“We welcome the attention that the bill gives to the issue of cash provision for local customers, and will continue to press for cash machines to be taken out of the rating system altogether so that business rates are not a barrier for retailers looking to provide this service.”

The new bill was tabled on the same day Link and PayPoint announced they are piloting a new ‘cash over the counter’ withdrawal service.

The Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill was read the first time on 16 May and is to be read a second time on 23 November.

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