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Solon wants probe into ‘looming increases’ in ATM fees


A lawmaker has filed a House resolution seeking an investigation into "looming increases" in automated teller machine (ATM) fees after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas issued an order lifting the moratorium on it.

In House Resolution 210, Makati City Representative Luis Campos Jr. called for an inquiry in aid of legislation as it is "consistent with the State’s duty under a 1992 law to protect the interests and general welfare of consumers and to establish standards of conduct for business.”

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm consumers—the nation’s more than 58 million ATM cardholders,” Campos said in a 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.

The BSP on July 19 issued Memorandum No. M-2019-020, which seeks to lift the moratorium on ATM fee increases it imposed on September 27, 2013.

Citing the BSP, Campos added that before the central bank imposed the ban in 2013, banks had wanted to raise their ATM charges by as much as 50 percent.

Banks had earlier announced plans to raise ATM fees by as much as 36% to 50% starting in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Currently, banks charge P10 to P15 per single interbank withdrawal transaction and P2 per single interbank balance inquiry.

But with the lifting of the moratorium, these charges could jump to as much as P15 to P30 per single interbank withdrawal or even higher, Campos said.

The memorandum, signed by BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, said that BSFIs (BSP-supervised financial institutions) must file a letter request indicating their proposed ATM fees, and the costs incurred by ATM activities, which should be "clear and adequately supported" and can be validated by the BSP onsite.

"It doesn't mean that with the lifting of the moratorium, banks can just right away increase their ATM fees," Fonacier said in a text message on Monday.

"Banks still need to seek approval from the BSP if they want to increase their ATM fees. And banks should justify their request for an increase. The BSP will then evaluate the bank's request."

BancNet

Campos' resolution also claimed that there is now a virtual monopoly in the network the interconnects all 21,682 ATMs in the country.

In 2008, ExpressNet Inc. outsourced its ATM network to BancNet Inc. The latter then merged its ATM networks with MegaLink Inc. in 2015.

BancNet has since remained the surviving entity while MegaLink has been repurposed, Campos said.

“In this case, we are clearly compelled under The Consumer Act, or Republic Act 7394, to conduct an inquiry so as to safeguard the rights of ATM users,” Campos added. — Erwin Colcol with Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News

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