A recent survey has found Australians have paid $627 million in ATM fees in the last year. By far the largest proportion of this coming from ‘foreign’ ATM charges – that is, withdrawing money from an ATM other than your own bank.

Five years ago the Reserve Bank of Australia enforced a ‘direct charge’ fee pricing on banks which, it said would ‘lower the cost of ATM services’. Gerard Brody, from the Consumer Action Law Centre has found this has not happened. Either the direct charge model isn’t doing what it is supposed to do or the banks have simply refused to adopt the new model.

One recent survey by Mozo has showed that 8 of the 14 ATM operators being monitored by the RBA had increased thir charges since 2010. The big banks charge fees of $2. But fees of $2.50 and more are not uncommon amongst other banks.

Consumer Actin Law Center Gerard Brody Photo: www.news.com

Consumer Actin Law Center Gerard Brody Photo: www.news.com

There is no reason for such an exorbitant fee. It does not cost the bank anywhere near $2 to perform the transaction. The fees charged, allowing individuals to access their own money, in many cases, offsets the interest earned by the account.

Both Mr Brody and Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey have called for an independent regulator to govern the price of ATM fees. The RBA is well intentioned, but it “isn’t set up to focus on consumer interest or outcomes,” said Mr Brody.

Clearly we need someone with the consumer’s interests at heart and the power to hold the banks to account.

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