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A congressman has warned that automated teller machine (ATM) charges may increase by as much as 50 percent after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas issued an order lifting the moratorium on fee adjustments.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said he filed House Resolution 210 asking the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries to investigate the looming increases in ATM fees following the BSP's decision to unfreeze the fees it imposed six years ago.

Campos said the legislative inquiry “is consistent with the State’s duty under a 1992 law to protect the interests and general welfare of consumers and to establish standards of conduct for business.”

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm consumers – the nation’s more than 58 million ATM cardholders,” Campos said.

“Even more vulnerable are our estimated 4.1 million minimum wage earners. Many of them receive and withdraw their salaries twice a month through their ATM cards at the machine nearest them,” Campos said.

The BSP issued Memorandum No. M-2019-020 on July 19, 2019, “lifting the moratorium on ATM fees.”

Campos said banks had wanted to jack up their ATM charges by as much as 50 percent before the BSP enforced the standstill in 2013.

A survey of ATM fees would indicate that banks currently charge between P10 to P15 per single interbank withdrawal transaction and P2 per single interbank balance inquiry.

These charges could jump to as much as P15 to P30 per single interbank withdrawal, possibly even higher, with the removal of the moratorium, Campos said.

In his resolution, Campos said “that there now exists a virtual monopoly in the network that interconnects all of the country’s 21,682 ATMs.”

ExpressNet Inc. outsourced its ATM network to BancNet Inc. in 2008, and BancNet and MegaLink Inc. merged their ATM networks in 2015, with BancNet as the surviving entity, while MegaLink has since been repurposed, Campos said.

“In this case, we are clearly compelled under The Consumer Act, or Republic Act 7394, to conduct an inquiry so as to safeguard the rights of ATM users,” Campos said.

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