Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier said Wednesday the regulator was closely evaluating the requests of banks to increase automated teller machines fees and assured the public that any increase would be “reasonable and market-driven.”
Fonacier told a news briefing less than 10 banks had applied for the increase but she did not divulge their identities.
“The main reason of banks [in applying for higher fees] is to recoup the cost of ATM services. It is really on the cost. The BSP has to look at it and find out if the basis is reasonable,” Fonacier said.
“It is not principally to drive the income of the banks… There are costs involving ATM services. There is also a matter of security risks,” she said, adding some ATMs of banks are located in risky areas.
“There are a lot of factors to consider. That is why the BSP is carefully looking at the banks’ request to increase fees. But [any increase] should be reasonable and market-driven,” she said.
Vicente de Villa III, officer-in-charge of the BSP’s financial technology subsector, said it would take 20 days to complete the evaluation process for the applications.
“Part of the evaluation process is banks must submit cost considerations [such as] hardware costs, software costs, security costs, etc… But banks have different strategies to maintain their machines,” de Villa said.
De Villa said prices should be transparent so that consumers themselves could make informed decisions.
“At the end of the day, it’s making these services accessible to consumers…,” he said.
ATM fees currently range from P11 to P15 per transaction.
The BSP last month lifted the moratorium on adjusting ATM fees by banks through memorandum 2019-020. The moratorium was implemented on Sept. 27, 2013.
The BSP acknowledged the concerns of the banking public on news reports about the possible increase in ATM fees.
“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.
“Towards this end, the BSP has issued regulations that require banks to adhere to the principles of reasonable and market-based pricing in their ATM operations. As such, banks cannot increase the ATM fee on their own,” it said.
It said any bank that intended to adjust ATM fees should file its request with the BSP, indicating their proposed fees, as well as the costs currently incurred by the bank with respect to ATM activities.
The BSP also disallows the imposition of set fees arising from agreements between market participants.
“Rest assured that the BSP 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 980 dated Nov. 6, 2017,” it said.
Labor group Partido Manggagawa led by Rene Magtubo expressed its strong opposition to the banks’ planned increase in ATM fees by charging P15 per withdrawal, saying the amount was burdensome to millions of daily minimum workers who receive a measly P537 per day.
The group urged the BSP to use its regulatory powers to freeze any ATM fee hikes and support the congressional inquiry into the matter.