Federal economy minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) has demanded an accounting from the four big banks of the fees they charge their customers for making cash withdrawals from cashpoint machines.
The banks – KBC, Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis and ING – recently announced a plan to join their cashpoint machines by 2025 in a network of independent machines, which would be better-spread across the country and operated by Batopin as Bancontact machines.
The idea is laudable, as more and more bank branches either close or get rid of cash machines at local branches, especially in remote communes, making it difficult for many people to obtain cash for payments with long journeys.
The four banks promise they will organise their network in such a way as to make a machine available to everyone within a radius of 5km – which is still a considerable distance for the elderly and those less mobile.
“That cannot guarantee that every Belgian has easy access to a cash machine,” Dermagne said.
“That is problematic. It is time for banks to respect their commitments, the laws and their customers.”
But for the moment, Dermagne is turning his attention on the charges banks demand for use of the machines, in particular from each other. Those interbank charges are of course passed on to the customer, with only the first 24 withdrawals a year – two a month – being free.
Interbank charges, which he has asked the National Bank to investigate, would stimulate banks to reverse the shrinking of the cashpoint network, he said.
Although at the same time it would increase the cost of withdrawals for customers, many of whom are already disadvantaged by the switch away from cash.