ATM access must be legally protected, MPs told

Laws must be introduced across the UK to safeguard the public’s access to cash machines, MPs have been told.

At Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Ron Delnevo, of the ATM Industry Association, warned action must be taken to ensure people still have the option of making cash rather than digital payments.

The committee has been examining access to financial services following a decline in the number of ATMs across the country, as the use of contactless payment has risen.

Pay At Pump Barclaycard Contactless Beer Pump
Pay At Pump Barclaycard Contactless Beer Pump

“We are in a uniquely bad position and the public are not being served,” Mr Delnevo said.

“We need laws here to protect the people. Talking about it and relying on the morals of the participants isn’t good enough.

“We need politicians to act, in Scotland and here at Westminster, to have laws to protect the public.

“It won’t be done through ‘gentleman’s agreements’ and meetings in smoke-filled rooms.”

A report by former financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney was published last month and made a number of recommendations to the Government to ensure that cash remains a viable option.

Mr Delnevo criticised the report, suggesting it does not go far enough.

“Natalie Ceeney is a nice person but we needed Boadicea and we got Boy George – no conviction here,” he said.

Mr Delnevo also described use of the term cashless as a “nonsense”.

He said: “This is a PR company’s creation. You don’t say when you’re driving by car it’s a bicycle-less transaction, do you?

“You don’t say when you’re flying it’s a car-less transaction.

“Cashless is a phrase invented by the anti-brigade and they’re firing it through newspapers with massive PR budgets to try to persuade people that cash is old-fashioned.

“Actually contactless is old-fashioned – it was introduced first in Hong Kong 22 years ago.

“So the idea that it’s some fangled new wonder that we all need to kneel before and worship is a complete nonsense.”

Eric Leenders, from UK Finance, which represents banks, said: “The pattern of cash and cash usage is changing and there is no doubt that we use cash less than we did 10 years ago and we are likely to use it less in 10 years time.

“That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to provide an infrastructure, it doesn’t mean that we should drive customer choice – customers should be free to manage their money how they choose and if that’s with cash, then that’s absolutely fine.

“It does mean, however, that we do need to think about the footprint of opportunities to access cash and we also need to think about the wholesale distribution of cash.”

John Howells, chief executive of LINK, the cash machine network, suggested a lack of coordination between organisations regarding ATM closures is creating problems for consumers in accessing cash.

Mr Howells said: “Whilst I can see that consumers are using digital, forcing them to use digital by closing cash access is not a good thing for this country to move to.

“And at the moment, because there’s no coordination with the Post Office and the ATM and the bank, I think we risk that.”