By Joan Santiago
MANILA, (PNA) — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) directs banks to maintain a status quo on interbank automated teller machine (ATM) fees pending the completion of a study on this.
In a briefing Thursday, BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said central bank’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) has “approved the issuance of a memorandum instructing the banks to maintain the status quo in terms of both service fees and their connectivity arrangements pending completion of this study.”
“A study is required so we can balance the various interests because the BSP recognizes that banks has to cover their cost of operation. But at the same time, consumers also must be protected on the reasonableness of their access and the cost of that access to the ATM networks,” he said.
Espenilla said the MB order is “open-ended until the study is completed”, which in turn would be finished as soon as possible.
Banks namely the Sy-led Banco de Oro Unibank Inc. (BDO), Ty-led Metropolitan Banking Corp. (Metrobank) and Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Island (BPI) have announced the increase of interbank ATM charges in October to November this year.
Espenilla said the BSP is in consultations with the banking sector on the review of disclosure practices, competition policy, and consumer protection among others.
He explained that it is understandable for banks to increase fees being charged to ATM transactions of people who are not their account holders due to cost recovery.
“But since this has a broader impact on the welfare of consumers because ATM usage has become very much part of our daily practices it affects a whole range of people,” he said.
To date, there are more than 13,100 ATMs nationwide and banks are still considering to increase their ATM networks.
Relatively, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) said its members will come out with a uniform stand on this issue.
“However, each member bank will have its own particular justification in pricing of ATM services,” Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) president Lorenzo Tan, who is the current BAP president, said.
Similarly, BDO, in a statement said, its account holders “do not pay any charge on withdrawal transactions done through the Bank’s own ATM network.”
It, however, said that its clients are required to pay a network fee when they use ATMs of other banks since the transaction “requires additional handling of the transaction to route it to BDO for approval.”
It also explained that “by the same token, should BDO end up servicing another bank’s customer, we have to recover the cost of providing the service.”
”BDO’s objective is to constantly provide its customers the best services and products, and that includes the expansion of its ATM network across the country,” it said.
“These investments, though, as well as the maintenance of these ATMs come at a cost, of which the Bank absorbs the majority for its account holders,” it added.