House consolidates bills regulating ATM fees

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is set to pass a bill that will regulate fees banks charge millions of customers for the use of their automated teller machines or ATMs.

At the end of a hearing yesterday, the committee on banks and financial intermediaries chaired by Quirino Rep. Junie Cua decided to consolidate four bills seeking regulation of ATM charges.

 “It’s safe to say that there is a consensus for regulation to protect bank customers,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the authors of the bill, told reporters.

In regulating fees, he said Cua wanted to strike a balance between the interest of banks and their clients.

Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo, who authored one of the four bills, said currently, banks charge P10 to P15 for every ATM withdrawal and P2 for a balance inquiry.

She said many banks have applied for an increase with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas after the BSP lifted its moratorium on any adjustment in July this year.

 “The looming increase will be financially detrimental to 58 million ATM cardholders, many of whom are employees whose salaries are deposited in banks and withdrawn through the ATM network,” she said.

She added that it’s important for Congress for regulate fees to protect 58 million ATM users.

Castelo suggested that a fee ceiling be set.

During yesterday’s hearing, Cesar Consing, president of financial giant Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI), said it is costly for banks to maintain an ATM network since one machine costs P600,000 to P650,000 and requires maintenance of up to P45,000 a month.

“There are more than 21,000 ATMs throughout the country, two-thirds of which are controlled by only six big banks. Because of the huge cost involved, smaller banks rely on the bigger banks for their ATM service,” he said.

He claimed that banks do not make money from their ATM network but are in fact “losing on hundreds of machines because they are located in far-flung areas.”

Another committee resource person, Emy Reyes of BancNet, which interconnects the ATM networks of banks, said of the P15 fee a customer pays for an interbank withdrawal, P7.50 goes to the bank whose ATM such depositor used, while P1 is paid to BancNet.

An interbank transaction is where a depositor uses the network of a bank other than his own.

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