The failure of the Reserve Banks of Australia’s ‘direct charge’ model for bank ATMs has been conclusively shown in a Payments Consulting Network survey. 27,000 ATMs across the country were accessed to find what charges were made for removing cash and balance inquiries. Sadly, cash machine customers are being charged an average of $5 for every withdrawal and $3.50 for every balance inquiry.

Matt Levey Head of Campaigns at Choice. Photo: www.farminstitue.org.au

Matt Levey Head of Campaigns at Choice. Photo: www.farminstitue.org.au

The worst offenders were cash machines owned and operated by companies other than the banks, with some of them charging up to $10 for withdrawals. Many customers were unaware of who owned the ATM and what charges were being levied upon their transactions. This is because the machines were most often placed in areas with a high possibility of customer distraction – pubs, nightclubs, service stations etc. However the authors of the study refused to reveal the actual locations of the ATMs.

Matt Levey, the chief of campaigns at Choice, said, “ATM fees are way out of proportion to the cost of providing the service, especially charging consumers for simply checking their bank balance.”

Last year the largest independent ATM franchise increased its levy from $2.50 to $2.80 per transaction. The rest of the industry is set to follow suit.

Both Choice and the Consumer Action Law Centre have been strident in their calls for an independent body to oversee the fees applied at ATMs. They have further argued for an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, believing the fees are not simply unjust, but collusive and anti-competitive.

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