To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of LINK's decision on interchange fees on the ability of UK consumers to freely access cash.
5 March 2018
The Government recognises that widespread free access to cash remains extremely important to the day-to-day lives of many consumers and businesses in the UK. Government has been engaging and will continue to engage with the regulators and industry, including LINK, to ensure that it is maintained.
The Government established the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) in 2015 with a statutory objective to ensure that the UK’s payment systems work in the interests of their users.
As part of this, the PSR is monitoring developments within ATM provision. The PSR recently commissioned work to understand the impact on the provision of free-to-use ATMs that a reduction in interchange fees may have. They have also set out three requirements of LINK: that LINK must maintain the current geographical spread of ATMs; that any changes made to interchange fees must be incremental to allow LINK to monitor the impact and take action if the impact is not as expected; and for a greater focus on LINK’s financial inclusion programme, to continue to fill gaps in the network. The PSR has committed to using its powers to act should LINK behave in a way that conflicts with its statutory objectives. The PSR has recently published a summary of their work to date, which can be found at https://www.psr.org.uk/psr-focus/the-UK-ATM-network.
Following the publication of these three criteria, LINK, the scheme behind the UK’s ATM network, committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use cash machines, and to ensuring that the present geographical spread of ATMs is maintained. To do this, LINK will bolster its Financial Inclusion Programme, which ensures the provision of ATMs in certain areas where demand would not otherwise make one viable. LINK will also protect all free-to-use ATMs which are a kilometre or more from the next nearest free-to-use ATM, and ensure that any community that loses ATM access because of a branch closure has a free ATM provided.
Furthermore, LINK will do an annual review the impact of the interchange fee reduction as it is phased in over the next four years. In addition, LINK will set up publicly available monitoring on its website of every area of the country showing free ATM availability, and highlight any areas where free ATM availability is lost.