By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday urged major banks to consider proposals to lower their automated teller machine (ATM) fees instead of increasing them.
Hontiveros said considering the many technological advances that have allowed big banks to cut costs, interbank withdrawal fees should be kept at the minimum to help banking consumers cope with high costs of basic commodities and services.
“With all these technologies that have immensely reduced labor costs, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for big banks to raise their ATM fees,” Hontiveros pointed out.
“Maybe they could explore the possibility of lowering their fees as a way of providing a better experience for their existing customers and encouraging Filipinos to save,” she said.
Several banks have reportedly applied before the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to adjust interbank withdrawal fees by as much as 50 percent. If approved, this would allow banks to charge P30 for just a single transaction.
According to Hontiveros, the wider use of ATMs by the country’s major banks has allowed them to achieve greater savings on labor and operating expenses, since customers no longer have to be attended by employees or go to banks where they withdraw or deposit money, make inquiries regarding their accounts, or pay bills.
She said one major bank has even reportedly applied to lower their ATM fees now that the BSP has lifted its 2013 moratorium on adjustment of ATM charges.
On top of ATMs, the lawmaker also said online banking has helped complement banking transactions, making it possible for banks to offer a wide range of financial services through the Internet.
The senator also expressed doubts that big banks are operating at a loss due to ATM operations. Citing a BSP report, Hontiveros said Philippine banks are earning by as much as 26 percent—from P86.87-billion to a whopping P109.77-billion—in the first half of the year alone.
Hontiveros said she would support and join any effort by the Senate to probe the issue.
“Any drastic increase in ATM fees will affect Filipinos in the lower socio-economic classes the most. We must explore options that promote a culture of financial literacy,” she said.