Cashpoint chargesGovernment calls summit on cashpoint charges

17 February 2006

The government and the banking industry have been accused of 'passing the buck' over cash machine charges.

John McFall, who chaired a Treasury Select Committee investigation last year into fee-charging ATMs, told fellow MPs that it was essential the banking industry provided clear information to consumers.

'When I go to a petrol station, I see a clear sign showing the price per litre in large numbers. Why can there not be a similar high standard of transparency for cash machine charges?

'Although consumers using a charging cash machine are given notification of the charge and the option to cancel, that comes very late in the transaction—after the customer has inserted their card and personal identification number and selected the amount they wanted to withdraw.'

Mr McFall added: 'It seems that the industry, the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) and the individual government departments are passing the buck, rather than engaging in a serious and systematic analysis of the issue.'

Thrash out issues

Responding to the criticism, Economic Secretary to the Treasury Ivan Lewis told the parliamentary debate that he would call a summit - involving MPs and banking industry representatives - to thrash out the issues surrounding charging cash machines.

A recent survey by Which? News found that almost half of bank customers are confused about whether they can use the Big Four banks' cashpoints for free.

Ninety five per cent also thought that no bank or building society should charge anyone to use its cashpoints. The same number wanted all cash machines to make clear, before you put your card in, whether there would be a charge.

Which? has long called for machines to be labelled with red (for charging) or green (for free) signs so you can see upfront whether you'll be charged and we welcome the cash machine summit. Campaigns Team Leader Doug Taylor said:

'Which has consistently called for better labelling of cash machines. There is no excuse for companies failing to make it instantly clear to a consumer whether the machine will charge them to use it. We welcome the ministerial summit if it galvanises the industry to act.'

and

 have already adopted the Which? model and Nationwide's Executive Director Stuart Bernau welcomed the announcement of an ATM summit:

'We have campaigned on this issue for a number of years and I have this week written to the chief executives of banks and building societies urging them to do the right thing and protect consumers by committing to keep free ATMs.

'Consumers are overwhelmingly against charges but we fear that unless there is concerted action by the industry, free ATMs could disappear.'