PSR ‘concerned’ at fall in free ATMs
Written by Peter Walker
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has responded to a LINK report today showing a continued fall in the number of free-to-use ATMs, expressing concern over the trend.
The first of cash machine network LINK’s ‘Footprint’ reports revealed that between the end of January and the start of July this year, the number of free-to-use ATMs reduced from 54,500 to 53,200 – a two per cent reduction in the size of the 1,300 ATM-strong network.
“The continuing adoption of new payment methods is reducing the demand for cash and therefore ATM withdrawals,” stated LINK, adding that it has put in place specific arrangements to protect free-to-use ATMs more than 1km away from their next nearest free-to-use ATM.
Whilst LINK does not operate the cash machines, given the public commitments by LINK to preserve the broad geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs across the UK, “we are concerned about the closures of protected ATMs”, responded the PSR.
“We have always been clear that we would take action if it is needed,” continued the regulator’s statement. “To ensure LINK does meet its commitments we will now be developing a specific direction which will require LINK to fully develop its policies and processes for applying and implementing its commitments and to report to us on a regular basis.”
The PSR is also seeking renewed commitments from each of the banks that consumers will continue to be offered services allowing them to access their cash.
It has been working closely with LINK to understand why protected cash machines could have closed and what is being done to ensure they are replaced.
“We have made progress in those discussions and are encouraged that LINK shares the PSR’s views on the importance of free access to cash, and on the need for a long-term sustainable solution set against the continued importance of cash, but declining use of ATMs,” the PSR added.
Hannah Nixon, the PSR’s managing director said: “This highlights the challenges of maintaining a sustainable ATM network when the demand for cash is falling.
“The requirements we intend to place on LINK will help ensure that LINK achieves their commitment to protecting the geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs across the UK.”
In light of declining ATM usage, the PSR is continuing research with consumers, ATM operators, banks and other interested parties, and will work with organisations and government to look at the way people use and access cash.
Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, noted that today's figures show, even before the interchange fee changes took effect, one protected ATM closed every other day.
"The PSR is rightly concerned by the closures, but I fear its regulatory intervention may be too little, too late, it must ensure that LINK is held to its commitment to maintain the broad geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs.
"The committee has been clear that this is a major test of what is a relatively new regulator, but the banks, the ATM deployers, and LINK itself also have a duty to ensure consumers don’t lose out," she added.