Which? urges the regulator to intervene over future of ATM network

Which? is urging the regulator to intervene to ensure that consumers are not left struggling to access cash, as new proposals cast doubt over Britain’s free-to-use ATM network.

Which? is worried that LINK – the UK’s largest cash machine network – proposals to lower its interchange fee by 20% could lead to widespread closures of machines across Britain. The interchange fee is paid by banks per withdrawal to maintain the free-to-use ATM network. Such a change could make many machines no longer financially viable.

Which? is calling for the Payment Systems Regulator to conduct an urgent market review to fully evaluate the impact this change could have on consumers, millions of whom rely on the free-to-use network to access cash. Which? is concerned that LINK’s proposals are driven by pressure from some banks to cut costs, rather than focusing on the needs of consumers.

Which? is also questioning LINK’s claims that Britain’s free-to-use ATM network should be reduced due to a perceived decline in demand for cash. Such an assumption stands directly against Bank of England figures, which show a 10% increase in the demand for banknotes in 2016, representing the fastest growth in a decade. Cash remains the most widely used payment method in the UK, and last year, 2.7 million people in the UK were reliant almost entirely on cash.

As such, Which? is seeking assurances that all consumers can maintain access to free-to-use ATMs and can continue to use cash, which for many remains their preferred and sometimes necessary payment method.

Which? is calling on the regulator to assess LINK’s decision, and not allow its proposals to go through without a wider review that considers potential alternative options for accessing cash and a full examination of the ATM market.

LINK’s proposals come in the context of wider concerns about the recent spate of bank closures across Britain, which now amount to 1,962 since 2015. This has raised huge issues around consumers’ ability to access the services they need. Which? is now urging industry not to add further strains on consumers.

Gareth Shaw, Which? Money Expert said:

“With so many consumers reliant on cash payments it seems irresponsible to wave through proposals that could threaten Britain’s free-to-use ATM network.

“Significantly reducing this network could have a real impact on consumers, who might be left struggling to access the cash they need – and so we must see scrutiny from the regulator.”


Notes to editors

To view the letter Which? submitted to the Payment Systems Regulator on 6th December 2017, please click here: https://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/which-letter-to-psr-on-atms-20171206-470570.pdf

In 2016, Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland said:  “2.7 million people in the UK rely almost entirely on cash transactions – a number that has increased by 0.5 million since 2015. In 2016 the value of Bank of England notes in circulation increased by 10%, reaching over £70 billion in the run-up to Christmas: the fastest growth in a decade.”

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