Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has joined a group of 26 cross-party representatives led by fellow Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone MP in a letter calling on the Payments System Regulator (PSR) and the Government to take action on the interchange fee – allowing for cash machines up and down the country to once again become free to use.
The letter draws attention to the role the cut in the interchange fee played in the access to cash crisis disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in society, particularly during the pandemic. This decision from LINK - to cut the fee paid by banks to ATM providers for every cash withdrawal - has passed costs usually paid by banks onto consumers, resulting in the lack of free-to-use cash machines seen in many communities today.
They also warn of the problems associated with other proposed alternatives to a properly funded ATM network, highlighting several issues with in-store cashback solutions, which the MPs argue poses serious safety and security concerns due to the need for shops to keep increased volumes of cash on-site.
A Parliamentary motion calling for this change has been introduced and is supported by a cross-party of MPs in the Commons.
Mr Carmichael commented:
“It is understandable that many people have been reluctant to use cash during the pandemic and so cash machines are less used. The reality, however, is that cash is often the only way that many of the most vulnerable people in our community are able to pay for things. There is a strong public interest in keeping access to cash consistent and easy for that reason alone.
“We are fortunate in the isles to have relatively broad payment infrastructure, but that is no reason to be complacent. I will keep working with Jamie Stone to ensure that rural and island communities continue to have the access to cash we need.”