In its first annual report, published today, LINK’s independent Consumer Committee welcomed the way in which the LINK ATM Scheme has listened to and taken account of consumer interests.
The LINK Consumer Committee was established by LINK in April 2006 to advise LINK on consumer issues that relate to the UK cash machine network and represent the interests of consumers in the governance and development of the network. The Committee brings together consumer representatives and delegates from LINK Scheme members including the largest high-street banks and independent cash machine operators.
In its first year, the Committee focused on access to free-to-use cash machines around the UK and the transparency of signage at cash machines where cardholders are charged a fee for making cash withdrawals. It also considered a range of other issues, including transparency of information at new foreign-currency dispensing cash machines connected to the LINK network, as well as other possible areas of innovation, and also fraud prevention.
Dr Ken Andrew, Consumer Committee Chairman, said: “The LINK scheme enables banks and building societies to offer their cardholders reliable, secure access to cash at effectively every cash machine in the UK. This is a unique service to consumers that no other network provides, and one that does not exist in all countries. LINK’s Consumer Committee is keen to see this network maintained and enhanced. The number of both free-to-use and pay-to-use cash machines has increased significantly over the year, with new machines of both types contributing to a significant expansion of the LINK network and an improvement in access to cash in many areas across the country. With the targeted effort to install free-to-use machines in lower-income communities which do not currently have them, the additional availability of both free and charging cash machines has contributed to a real increase in convenience and choice for the consumer.
“Measures further to improve transparency of charges at pay-to-cash machines have been adopted after extensive consultation. Implementation of these improvements is well underway. This initiative is due to be completed by the end of 2007.”
Nicola O’Reilly, National Consumer Council, added: “The LINK Consumer Committee has been an excellent vehicle for ensuring that LINK members take account of consumers’ interests and this has made a real difference to recent major initiatives. The expansion of free access to cash through ATMs in low-income communities is an important and welcome contribution to achieving financial inclusion. We look forward to seeing the remainder of the 600 new ATMs being deployed this year, making a practical difference to consumers’ everyday lives. Improvements in transparency around charging machines is also a major step forward, helping consumers to make an informed decision about paying for ATM access.”
Over the coming year, the Consumer Committee will be looking at four main areas:
1. access - monitoring the roll-out and effectiveness of increasing the numbers of free-to-use cash machines in lower-income areas;
2. transparency – monitoring the completion of the programme to standardise and enhance signage at pay-to-use cash machines;
3. innovation - providing advice to LINK and its members on how innovations such as new transaction types at cash machines can add value to consumers;
4. fraud and cash machine crime - providing advice to LINK on how consumer awareness and understanding of risks can best be increased while keeping the current very low-level of risk to cardholders in appropriate perspective.
Members of the public or any interested party may draw an issue to the Committee’s attention by contacting the LINK Scheme Executive at http://www.link.co.uk/contact/mn_contact.html.
The full Committee report may be found on the LINK website:
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Notes to Editor:
LINK Consumer Committee members
The current independent members of the LINK Consumer Committee are:
• Dr Ken Andrew, Chairman
• Baroness Anne Gibson OBE of Market Rasen
• Mrs Margaret Bloom CBE, economist and Visiting Professor in the School of Law at King’s College in London
• Nicola O’Reilly, National Consumers Council
• Tony Herbert, Citizens Advice
LINK is the operator of the UK cash machine network, connecting almost every cash machine – free and charging – in the UK and is the busiest cash machine transaction switch in the world. The LINK ATM Scheme brings together the banks, building societies and other institutions that issue cards and the operators of the more than 62,000 UK cash machines that make up that network.
In the past five years the number of LINK cash machines has grown from 36,000 to more than 62,000 and of these, over 35,000 are free to use - an all-time high.
96 per cent of all ATM cash withdrawals are free of charge.
LINK deals with up to 226 million transactions a month and at its busiest, it processes over 1 million transactions an hour. LINK has around 50 members and there are more than 130 million LINK cards in circulation from around 38 card issuers.
The LINK ATM Scheme sets the rules for new and existing members and sets standards for signage, encryption, messaging, security and other features of the cash machine network.
LINK does not install or operate machines on its own behalf. Decisions on where to install individual machines or whether a machine is free to use or pay to use are the responsibility of individual LINK members.
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