Nonprofit for financial inclusion files complaint against big Belgian banks

Nonprofit for financial inclusion files complaint against big Belgian banks
Credit: © Belgs

The non-profit organisation Financité, which fights for more financial inclusion, has filed a complaint with the Belgian Competition Authority against the two bank groupings for ATMs.

“We were concerned about the two initiatives launched in 2019 and 2020 for an interbank management of ATM networks,” said Anne Fily, a researcher with Financité.

“We must remember that cash is a public good: the banks have a monopoly on our money deposits but they cannot prevent the population from accessing it.”

Financité said they conducted an investigation and found that no file prior to the initiatives had been submitted to the Belgian Competition Authority, Le Soir reported on Monday.

“This seems to us to be contrary to the law in this area,” Fily said.

The complaint by Financité targets the companies Batopin (a limited company whose shareholders include the four largest banks in the country: BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, ING and Belfius), and Jofico, a cooperative made up of smaller institutions (Argenta, AXA Bank, Crelan, vdk bank and bpost).

Financité said “it is incomprehensible that such companies, whose activity consists of drastically reducing the service to users, have been able to merge apparently without any restrictions.”

Translation: Easy access to cash, and therefore to our money, is a right. Nothing should be decided in this area without consulting the citizens. Sign the petition.

The complaint mentions two potential infringements of the economic law code.

“Together, the founding companies have a turnover of more than 100 million euros. If they create a joint venture, they must notify their project to the National Competition Authority,” said Fily.

“However, to our knowledge, there is no trace of such [a filing]. Moreover, it seems to us that these two projects could also be analysed from the point of view of restrictive competition practices.”

Financité has also launched a petition “Soyons cash” on the matter.

“The banks are planning to reduce the number of ATMs in Belgium. Let’s mobilise and, together, stop them!” the petition reads.

Indeed, the number of ATMs in the country has fallen and continues to decrease, a trend that worries elderly people in particular because they rely on cash for many of their payments.

The Brussels Times

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