by a Newsnet reporter
Plans by state owned banks RBS and Lloyds to restrict the use of cash machines by people on low incomes and in rural areas have been condemned by SNP MSP John Wilson.
Thousands of basic account customers of Lloyds TSB, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, who are often on low incomes, are to be banned from using any cash machine not belonging to their own bank.
Current account holders who pay fees every month will still be allowed to use any machine. It is feared that as many as 8000 people will be affected by the ban.
John Wilson MSP, Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee and a former Director of the Scottish Low Pay Unit, said:
“This move by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds is nothing short of scandalous.
“It clearly discriminates against economically deprived customers who will now face difficulties accessing their own money and will hit those in rural areas hard.
“In many deprived areas and in rural villages there is only one cash machine and only one place to access money.
“This policy will make life more complicated for customers on low incomes who tend to use cash machines more and could force them to spend more to get access to their own cash.
“RBS and Lloyds are penalising the same taxpayers who bailed them out.
“I will be writing to the Chief Executive of RBS and the other banks involved for an explanation and action to restore the rights of customers to access their own cash.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: It’s always a retrograde step for any policy that introduces charging for any customers at the lower end of the income scale.” Mr Salmond suggested that the banks might like to “think again”.
A spokesman for RBS said: “We are fully committed to offering a free basic account for people who may otherwise struggle to access banking services.
“These account holders will continue to have free access to one of the largest cash machine networks in the UK.
“Our basic account holders will still enjoy free access to one of the largest ATM networks – over 8,000 – in the UK, through RBS, Natwest and Tesco.
“They also can make withdrawals at any Post Office counter.”
Marie Burton, financial inclusion expert at Consumer Focus, said: “This is a kick in the teeth for many of RBS’s most vulnerable customers.
“We would call on RBS to reconsider this move which will exclude its basic bank account holders from using the majority of the UK’s free cash machine network.”
Michael Ossei of uSwitch.com, added: “This move is going to leave the most vulnerable customers stuck between a rock and a hard place. Unless they are able to qualify for a better bank account, they will have no option but to use a limited number of cash machines.
“This will hit those customers who do not live or work in the vicinity of an RBS cash machine particularly hard and could result in them incurring extra travelling costs just to be able to take money out. And with 318 RBS branches being sold to Santander, this is only going to get worse rather than better.”