Local MP seeks reassurances on future of rural ATMs

Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack has raised concerns about the impact of changes to the way free-to-use ATMs are funded.

During a session of the House of Commons’ Treasury Select Committee Mr Jack questioned the incoming Chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, Mr Charles Randell, about the reduction in the interchange rate from 1st July 2018.

The change is part of a series of measures being introduced by LINK, the UK’s main cash machine network, and will see the fee card issuers pay ATM operators reduced by 20% over four years.

Mr Jack fears that this will have an adverse effect in rural areas, including his own constituency, with a possibility that ATM operators could close machines in towns and villages that depend on them.

Under the plans, ATMs one kilometre or more from the next free ATM will be exempt from any reductions in the interchange free. 

According to LINK 80% of ATMs in the UK are situated within 300 metres of another free-to-use ATM, the vast majority of which are in larger towns or cities. 

Fee card issuers will therefore still have to pay the higher fee for ATMs in rural areas and the MP believes that this could result in a reluctance from banks to support free-to-use ATMs in rural areas due to the increased cost of doing so.

Despite a commitment from the Payment Systems Regulator to closely monitor the impact of the changes, the MP believes that this does not go far enough and has urged the PRS to immediately reassure customers that no rural ATMs will close as a result of the fee reduction.

Mr Jack said, “There is no point in trying to lock the stable door when the horse has already bolted.

“I can guarantee that ATM operators will not be waiting until this change comes into effect in July 2018 before deciding how to react.

“They will already be putting plans in place and that is why the PRS, as the regulating body, needs to step in and guarantee the future of ATMs in rural areas.

“At a time when bank branches are closing, the removal of ATM provision would be a hammer blow to people and businesses whose livelihoods depend on having immediate access to cash from ATM machines.

“These changes need to be monitored very closely indeed, and as a member of the Treasury Select Committee this is something that we will be keeping our eye on”.