BSP says banks can’t raise ATM fees without approval

Any increase in fees for services made through automated teller machines (ATMs) need the approval of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

This was stressed by the central bank in a statement on Tuesday, Aug. 13, following concerns it received caused by talks about the possible hike in ATM fees.

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“The BSP assures the public that its policy on ATM fees is guided by best industry practices and that it is driven with the broader welfare of consumers in mind,” it said.

Lawmakers have backed calls for a House inquiry into the ATM fee increases in the horizon, following the move of bank regulators to lift a six-year freeze.

“Offhand, we see no justification for banks to impose ATM charges in excess of the P10 to P15 that they are currently collecting per single interbank withdrawal transaction, considering that depositors are merely taking money that they lent to the bank,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

“The existing P10 to P15  ‘convenience fee’ per withdrawal seems minimal and acceptable. However, they might become ‘annoying fees’ as soon as they are increased,” Pimentel warned.

“Besides, banks are already extracting way too many superfluous fees from depositors, including the P300 to P500 monthly charge slapped on accounts falling below the P10,000 to P25,000 minimum monthly average daily balance, not to mention the dormancy levies on inactive accounts,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel urged the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries to find out “exactly where the ATM charges go.”

“What we know is that all sorts of ‘fee income’ now constitute a big chunk of the core earnings of banks, apart from net interest income and trading gains,” Pimentel said.

The BSP should also be asked to explain why it suddenly decided to remove the 2013 moratorium on ATM fee increases, Pimentel said.

For its part, the central bank explained that it has issued several regulations directing banks to heed “principles of reasonable and market-based pricing in their ATM operations.”

“As such, banks cannot increase the ATM fee on their own. In fact, any bank that intends to adjust ATM fees must file its request with the BSP, indicating their proposed fees, as well as the costs currently incurred by the bank with respect to its ATM activities,” it said.

The statement said costs declared by banks “should be clear, properly supported, and may be validated by the BSP when deemed necessary.” It added: “The BSP also disallows the imposition of set fees arising from agreements between market participants.”

The central bank assured the banking public that it “shall examine each request and decide if the increase is warranted to cover the cost of maintaining the ATMs.”

“Should an increase be necessary in order for banks to continue providing ATM services to the banking public, the BSP will ensure that the increase will be reasonable and will adhere to pricing principles provided under BSP Circular No. 980 dated 6 November 2017,” it said.

“In any case, said fees should be lower than the fees collected from transactions made over-the-counter (OTC) and comply with transparency in pricing,” it added. — Joann Villanueva (PNA)

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