Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2016


Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015; In Committee

11:04 am

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee did hear evidence on credit card surcharges through ATMs—and I will call them surcharges. I come back to the point that this is about dealing with excessive surcharges, excessive fees. That is the whole principle behind what we are doing with credit card surcharges on other transactions, except for those through ATMs.

I want to outline what our amendments would do. A new division will be created in the bill which puts a limit on ATM fees. Firstly, it does so by banning any fees charged by banks for the use of their own ATMs, as we have heard Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank are doing, because we believe very strongly that if a bank is getting your money you should not be charged for the privilege of accessing it in getting it out of an ATM, which reflects the practice by pretty much all of the banks. Secondly, it requires the Reserve Bank to issue standards in relation to ATM fees charged by authorised deposit-taking institutions that will take into account the public interest and limit those fees to an amount that reflects the reasonable costs of allowing the person to make the transaction. This means that authorised deposit-taking institutions—in other words, the big banks—will be prevented from charging fees that are excessive and do not reflect those standards. We want to take the same principle for credit cards that is outlined in this bill, which we support, and make it applicable to ATMs.

Very quickly, just to finish off, it has been my experience in life—and I think most Australians would agree with me—that it is not always the case that you can find an ATM that is your bank's. Certainly, in big cities and other places, there is a choice; within a kilometre, you will be able to find other ATMs. But, if you are in a country town or any rural and regional areas, you can end up having to pay through the nose. There is not a lot of choice in some of those areas, where a lot of Australians live. And sometimes it is not convenient, especially if you are not as mobile as other people and you have to take public transport or you have trouble walking. There are all sorts of issues there. So it is not exactly clear cut, like it would be in an economics experiment, that you are a rational consumer of these services and you can make a choice. That is not always the case.

Anyway, we are saying it is reasonable for banks to recoup this cost. We are saying that is reasonable. What we are suggesting is not reasonable is that they are making excessive profits by gouging the Australian people when they use ATMs. We would like to crack down on that, and this is the perfect opportunity

We did hear evidence on it. If we pass these amendments today and we see the transfer of $600 million from some of the most profitable financial institutions in the world back to the hip pockets of Australian people, I think the people will thank the Senate for it. I ask the committee to give favourable consideration to these amendments moved by the Greens and do the right thing.


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