Ged Killen takes on the banks as he introduces bill to ban ATM charges

Scottish Labour MP Ged Killen is introducing a bill to ban charges from ATM machines, as miserly bank bosses plan to leave old and vulnerable without access to their cash.

The Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill, to be introduced today, has support from all three major parties, and is set to tackle a growing problem, as thousands of ATMs are threatened with being shut down.

As RBS threatens to close over sixty-two banks across Scotland, it would also go some way to tackling the devastating impact on rural communities of branch closures. The bill would strengthen already existing financial inclusion obligations. At the moment, these so-called obligations are ‘voluntarily enforced’ by the Lending Standards Board. If we’ve learnt anything from the financial crisis, it’s that bankers can’t be trusted to regulate themselves. If this bill were passed into law, these obligations would be monitored by the far tougher Financial Conduct Authority.

The bill would also levy fines on any bank that breaks the commitment to financial inclusion, including but not limited to - charging for ATM machines, closing rural branches, and forcing older customers to bank online. These fines will be reinvested in the local community alternatives to high street banks - like credit unions, and banking hubs.

Speaking ahead of the introduction of the bill, Ged Killen said:

“I accept that financial services are moving online, however from the public reaction to a reduction in free to use ATMs and the current bank branch closures it is obvious that these services are still valued and deserve protection.

“By banning ATM charges and introducing stricter rules around access to banking we can focus on how we best provide these services where they are needed and for free. No one should have to pay to access their own money.

“We must act before we sleepwalk into a desperate situation. In the United States a similar change to how ATMs are funded has made it the case that the average ATM charge is almost $5 per withdrawal.

“My concern is that ATMs which charge a fee will become the norm on the pathway to a cashless society. This will exact a harsh penalty on rural and deprived communities as well as the vulnerable and the elderly.

“When ATMs and bank branches disappear, lending to small businesses decreases, footfall on the high street goes and the risk of financial exclusion grows. If we are serious about financial inclusion and economic development outside metropolitan areas, we should seek to protect the services people rely on.”

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