CO-OPERATIVE Financial Services has called for the banking industry to give free access to cash machines financially deprived areas.
To coincide with the Government's "ATM summit" and in light of recent concerns expressed by members of the Treasury Select Committee, CFS is proposing that the costs of providing ATM services in the UK's financially excluded areas should be met by the members of LINK, the cash machine network, rather than recovered from charges to customers.
At present many ATMs in geographically remote locations, or in areas of poverty and high unemployment, are infrequently used.
The cost of providing the service in these low usage locations is often only viable if a fee is levied for customers withdrawing cash. If the CFS proposal was adopted by industry, the interchange fee exchanged between the banks when transactions take place would be increased slightly at such ATMs in order to help cover the costs, and eliminating the need for customers to be charged.
David Anderson Chief Executive of CFS, said: "We recognise that it may be acceptable to charge a fee in certain locations where the customer chooses to use an ATM at their convenience. However, we are concerned that in some remote or "deprived" areas there may be circumstances in which customers currently have no choice but to pay for access to the ATM network, because at low volumes, charging the customer is the only way that banks can cover their costs.
"If our proposal is adopted by the rest of the industry, the fees paid between banks would be higher for machines in those areas the Government designates as financially excluded. That way the industry, rather than the individual customers, would pick up the costs.
"Obviously, LINK would have to consider the definition of a financially excluded area before this proposal could be adopted, but our initial research suggests that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 cash machines in such areas, some of which currently carry a charge."