House seeks probe of looming increase in ATM fees

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House seeks probe of looming increase in ATM fees
The lawmakers worry that banks would apply as much as 50% hike on ATM fees, which is based on their plan before the effect of moratorium in 2013.

The House of Representatives is planning to investigate the forthcoming increase in the fee for withdrawing cash from automated teller machines (ATM) following the lifting of the six-year moratorium on ATM fee increases. 

This concerns the lawmakers that banks would apply as much as 50% hike on ATM fees, which is based on the rates they had planned to charge before the temporary freeze took effect in 2013. 

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm consumers — the nation’s more than 58 million ATM cardholders,” Makati Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said in his statement on Monday.

“Even more vulnerable are our 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.

Banks post big earnings 

The increase in ATM fees would appear as Philippine banks post big earnings. 

According to the initial data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), in the first 6 months of the year, banks had P110 billion in profits, which is 26% higher than their earnings in the same period last year. 

Furthermore, based on Campos’ proposed House Resolution No. 210, the House committee will hold an inquiry on the BSP’s memorandum lifting the moratorium on ATM fees with their banks and financial intermediaries. 

Virtual monopoly

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Image source: BancNet online
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco, Jr ( 2nd from left) with the heads of the three largest electronic banking networks in the country: (from left) MegaLink president Benjamin Castillo, ExpressNet chairman and CEO Aurelio Montinola III and BancNet chairman Ricardo Chua

It was mentioned that before the BSP imposed the freeze order in 2013, banks “had wanted to jack up their ATM charges by as much as 50%”, Campos recalled. 

Based on survey results of ATM fees, banks currently charge from P10 to P15 per interbank withdrawal transaction and P2 per interbank balance inquiry. 

Campos warned that these charges could even increase from P15 to P30 per interbank withdrawal or possibly even higher due to the lifting of the moratorium. 

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

He stated that ExpressNet Inc. in 2008 outsourced its ATM network to BancNet Inc. and MegaLink Inc. amalgamated with their ATM networks in 2015 — BancNet as the surviving entity, while MegaLink has been repurposed. 

“In this case, we are clearly compelled under the Consumer Act, or Republic Act No. 7394, to conduct an inquiry so as to safeguard the rights of ATM users,” Campos said.

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