Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes today’s announcement from the ACCC that they will continue to allow the banking industry to subsidise privately provided ATMs in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The ACCC needs to authorise this arrangement as its collective nature means it would otherwise breach Australia’s competition laws.
At a time when the banking industry has come in for significant criticism, its support for fee-free ATMs in remote communities is to be congratulated.
Without the subsidies from the banks, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities would be significantly worse off – they would have no choice but to pay the high fees charged by private providers. ATMs are a vital service because internet and phone banking is generally not available.
ATM fees can quickly add up for people living in remote communities, in some cases amounting to 20% of already meagre incomes. Reasons include withdrawing small amounts of cash more frequently to help with budgeting and frequent usage to check bank balances.
Financial Counselling Australia also notes that the ACCC’s authorisation provides for the program to be expanded beyond the existing 85 communities. We are keen to continue a dialogue with the banking industry about doing this.
Sadly, there are a number of remote communities where the harm from high ATM fees continues and where financial counsellors and financial capability workers see at first hand the problems caused for people on low incomes.
The major banks and a number of the smaller banks now offer fee-free ATMs throughout Australia and expanding the arrangement would also be consistent with this recent initiative.
CEO Financial Counselling Australia
0402 426 835