People & businesses may struggle to find free-to-use cash machines under proposals to shut hundreds of ATMs as part of an overhaul of the 70,000-strong Link network.
The board of Link has put forward a proposal to close a number of free cash machines only ten months after a row over the interchange fees that members of the network must pay to one another when their customers use ATMs operated by a rival.
According to The Guardian, if the proposal, which has been drawn up by a working group within Link, goes ahead, it will raise concerns about the impact on vulnerable customers at a time when banks are closing branches.
The row over interchange fees broke out in January, when, under pressure to cut costs, several of the 30 or so members of the Link network, which connects thousands of cash machines across the country, threatened to begin charging customers for their use. They argued that the fees they received for the use of their ATMs did not cover the costs of operating them.
About three quarters of cash machines are free to use and last year about two billion cash withdrawals were processed by Link, totalling nearly £130 billion.
Responding to the news, Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, said: “Which? is right to call for a comprehensive review of what LINK’s proposals could mean for consumers and businesses. LINK seems to take the view that our ATM network is robust enough as it stands, but we often hear of towns losing access to cash. These tend to be in rural areas and tourist hotspots where cash is critical to the local economy.
“Fundamentally, it’s hard to understand how LINK expects to achieve its stated goal of improving access to cash with decreased revenues. We’re calling for transparency throughout its consultation process. It would be interesting to know how cash machine operators see a reduction in the interchange fee impacting their ability to provide a vital public service. I look forward to meeting with the head of LINK to discuss these issues in the weeks ahead.
“What LINK needs to appreciate is that small businesses are already having to handle widespread bank branch closures. As bank branches close, businesses and shoppers are becoming more reliant on cash machines. That’s why a threat to the cash machine network is a threat to local growth all over the UK.”