2 September 2010
4 MILLION BENEFIT RECIPIENTS STILL PREVENTED FROM USING UK CASH MACHINE NETWORK
Today, LINK, the UK cash machine network, has published its annual Consumer Committee Report. The report regrets that despite successfully installing 740 new free-to-use ATMs in the country’s most deprived areas, 4 million consumers with government-issued Post Office Card Accounts - used for withdrawing benefits - are still unable to use them. This means these cardholders are instead obliged to travel to a post office, or queue at a post office counter during opening hours. The Report calls on the new government to reconsider the restriction imposed by its predecessor and to help those on benefits access their cash more easily.
The Report also describes the hopes of LINK’s Consumer Committee to install free-to-use cash machines in some lower-income areas that remain on their target list for communities that would benefit most. These include Kirkby in Liverpool, Queensway in Scunthorpe, Luton south, Caerau in South Wales, and some rural parts of Cornwall, particularly around Land’s End. LINK is aiming to target these areas in the year ahead by looking for suitable premises for ATMs, and would like to hear from local community leaders and businesses who could help to identify appropriate sites.
The 740 free-to-use cash machines introduced since 2006 have proven extremely popular – with a total of seventeen million cash withdrawals, ten million balance enquiries, as well as PIN change and Mobile Phone Top Up transactions at these ATMs in the first half of 2010 alone. Thanks in part to this initiative, the UK’s free-to-use ATM network is now wider than ever, totalling more than 40,000 ATMs and covering over 95% of the country’s lower-income areas, both urban and rural.
Edwin Schooling Latter, Managing Director of LINK says, “Working with government and consumer groups we’ve had a massive success in spreading free-to-use cash machines into lower-income areas previously without ATMs. The final push to see this important work to a close would be to ensure the government’s own cardholders – four million people receiving their benefits through a Post Office Card Account – can access the free ATMs.”
Marie Burton, policy advocate at Consumer Focus, added: "Our research shows that Post Office Card Account holders want cash machine access, so it is very frustrating they aren't benefiting from these free cash machines. In 21st century Britain people shouldn’t need to rely on post office opening hours to take out their own money. Most of us take for granted that we can withdraw cash in the early morning, in the evening or over the weekend – sadly this is not an option for many POCA users.’’
Other areas of focus for the Committee during the past year have been supporting the cash machine industry’s efforts to increase the number of ATMs dispensing £5s, and continued progress in reducing cash machine fraud. Although fraud at UK cash machines fell in the past year, the Committee continues to look at initiatives that will help maintain and enhance customer security.
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LINK’s Consumer Committee was set up in 2006 to represent the interests of consumers and to advise the LINK Scheme on consumer issues that relate to the LINK ATM network. The consumer representatives on the Committee include Citizens Advice, Consumer Focus, and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
LINK is the UK's cash machine network. It is a non-for-profit association. Virtually every cash machine in the UK (free-to-use and pay-to-use) is connected to LINK, and LINK membership provides the only route through which card issuers can offer their customers nationwide access to cash.
Those with a suggestion for an ATM site in one of the target areas should contact LINK by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org , or by phone at 01423 356205 or via the LINK website, http://www.link.co.uk/Pages/ContactUs.aspx.
Consumer Focus is the independent champion for consumers in the UK. Consumer Focus gives a strong voice for consumers on the issues that matter to them and works to secure a fair deal on their behalf. Consumer Focus’ reports can be downloaded below.
Opportunity Knocks, providing alternative banking solutions for low-income consumers at the Post Office.
On the margins, Society’s most vulnerable people and banking exclusion.
Consumer Focus’ response to the BIS consultation on developing the banking and financial services available at the Post Office.
 Although Post Office Card Accounts (POCA) were connected to the LINK Network in early 2010, POCA cardholders care currently restricted to using only Bank of Ireland ATMs. The Bank of Ireland operates less than 4% of UK ATMs which means benefit recipients are unable to use the vast majority of cash machines. Most Bank of Ireland ATMs are located in post offices and Bank of Ireland branches. However, most post offices don’t have an ATM, while some have an ATM operated by providers other than Bank of Ireland which POCA cardholders are currently prevented from using.