Congress may block hiking of ATM fees

Congress may block hiking of ATM fees
A row of ATM machines in Cubao, Quezon City. (Photo by THEPHILBIZNEWS)

By THEPHILBIZNEWS STAFF

Congress may step in to prevent the likely increase in interbank transaction charges deducted from one’s account every time a withdrawal is made at an automated teller machine (ATM).

A congressman had raised the issue, following a memorandum issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for banks to observe “reasonable” charges for ATM transactions after a 2013 moratorium on hiking the fees had been lifted.

In filing House Resolution 210 recently, Makati City Rep. Luis Campos wants an inquiry into circumstances that will warrant banks to jack up their fees for ATM transactions.

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm the nation’s over 58 million ATM cardholders,” Campos said.

“Even more vulnerable are the estimated 4.1 million minimum wage earners. Many of them receive and withdraw their salaries twice a month through their ATM cards at the machine nearest them,” he added.

In 2013, the BSP had blocked all requests of banks to hike interbank transaction charges, citing complaints from ATM cardholders over the perceived “abusive fees” imposed by certain local banks.

However, the Monetary Board — the members of which are BSP top officials — approved the lifting of the moratorium on ATM fees in April, 2018.

This move was followed by a memorandum issued to banks by BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier last month, advising them to impose reasonable ATM fees.

The memo stated that banks should properly inform the cardholder of the amount of fees to be charged by having a notice appear on the screen of the ATM. Banks will also have to give prior notice to the BSP before imposing any new increase in ATM fees.

Campos warned that banks may resort to doubling their interbank withdrawal transaction fees. “These charges could jump to as much as P15 to P30 per single interbank withdrawal, possibly even higher, with the removal of the moratorium,” he said.

In his resolution, Campos also pointed out “that there now exists a virtual monopoly in the network that interconnects all of the country’s 21,682 ATMs.”

Campos said ExpressNet Inc. outsourced its ATM network to BancNet Inc. in 2008, and BancNet and MegaLink Inc. merged their ATM networks in 2015, with BancNet as the surviving entity, while MegaLink has since been repurposed.

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