THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas said any hike in automated teller machine fees will need its approval.

By Mark T. Amoguis, Senior Researcher

THE CENTRAL BANK chief quelled market speculations of an impending hike in fees for transactions conducted through banks’ automated teller machines (ATMs).

“The moratorium on [ATM] fee (adjustments) just finished. Pero hindi naman automatic na mag-a-adjust (But it does not mean the banks will adjust fees automatically),” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said on the sidelines of an event in Quezon City on Tuesday.

Asked if there are banks applying for ATM fee hike at the moment, Mr. Diokno said: “Nothing yet. Wala pang nangyayari (Nothing’s happening).”

Wala kaming active move to stop or authorize another arrangement. Basta natapos na lang ‘yung period (We don’t not have active move to stop or authorize another arrangement. The period for this moratorium just ended),” Mr. Diokno added.

This comes amid a planned probe of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries of the impending hike in fees for transactions coursed through the ATMs.

According to Makati City Rep. Luis N. Campos, Jr., who filed the House Resolution No. 210 prompting the inquiry, banks plan to increase such fees by as much as 50%.

Currently, interbank charges on ATM withdrawals range from P10 to P15.

BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonancier said the central bank sees to it that banks have in place a policy that adheres to the principles of “reasonable and market-based pricing.”

“Banks cannot just increase the ATM fees as they would want to. There’s a process they need to observe in setting the ATM fees,” Ms. Fonacier said in a text message on Tuesday.

“The BSP also recognizes the need to make ATM operations economically viable to allow the banking public wide access to ATM for their transactional needs. Our expectation is that any increase in ATM fees should be within reasonable space of present customer experience,” she said.

“Rest assured that the BSP’s supervisory action on the matter is guided by best practices and driven by the need to look after the broader welfare of consumers.”

The central bank’s Memorandum No. M-2019-020, signed by Ms. Fonacier last July 19, lifted the moratorium on hiking ATM fees implemented in September 2013.

BDO Unibank, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Nestor V. Tan said: “We are in discussions if can revisit the way ATM fees are charged because the current setup is that its acquirer-based, meaning the operator of the ATM will have to charge for usage of the ATM.”

“I don’t know what it is now but there will be some adjustments… I don’t think it’s going to be immediate,” Mr. Tan said on the sidelines of an event in Quezon City on Tuesday.

“The industry and the BSP are working on ways to try to see if we can have a process so that the consumer is not burdened of this price,” he added.

In a separate statement sent to reporters on Tuesday, the central bank assured the public that the policy on ATM fees is guided by “best industry practices” with the broader welfare in mind.

“[B]anks cannot increase the ATM fee on their own. In fact, any bank that intends to adjust ATM fees must file its request with the BSP, indicating their proposed fees, as well as the costs currently incurred by the bank with respect to its ATM activities,” the BSP said.

The BSP said the declared costs should be clear, properly supported, and may be validated by the central bank when deemed necessary. It also disallows the imposition of set fees arising from agreements between market participants.

“Rest assured that the BSP shall examine each request and decide if the increase is warranted to cover the cost of maintaining the ATMs,” the central bank said.

“In any case, said fees should be lower than the fees collected from transactions made over-the-counter and comply with transparency in pricing.”