Stop the increase in ATM fees. The Antitrust has closed the investigation relating to the project to modify the remuneration model for withdrawals with ATM cards that the consortium had presented at the end of 2020. According to the competition authority, in fact, the new model proposed by the company would result in harm to consumers.
To date, when an ATM card holder makes a withdrawal from another bank, the issuing bank debits the amount withdrawn from its customer’s current account and credits the same amount to the bank that owns the ATM (sometimes, for the customer there is a surcharge for withdrawals from branches other than those of your bank). Furthermore, the bank of the ATM counter obtains from the issuing bank the payment of an interchange commission of 0.50 euro.
Bancomat, on the other hand, would like to eliminate the interbank commission and apply, in its place, a possible commission directly to the cardholder; a sum that would be defined autonomously by each bank owning the ATM and communicated to the customer before authorizing the withdrawal operation.
A change that – according to Bancomat – would be justified by the increase in costs incurred by banks in managing ATMs due to the technological evolution of the equipment and the risks associated with more sophisticated fraudulent activities. However, the proposal has aroused protests from consumers worried by the fact that each bank can autonomously apply a different levy to its liking. Perhaps even taking advantage of the fact that it is the only institute present in a municipality or in a neighbourhood.
Indeed, when you find yourself withdrawing from an ATM, you often have no choice, perhaps finding yourself in an area where digital payments are not yet widespread and where there is no bank branch. And it is precisely on this aspect that the Antitrust has decided to investigate, to evaluate whether the new circuit rules could configure an agreement capable of restricting or distorting competition in the common market: «It is necessary – he wrote in 2020 – to examine whether the coordination the market behavior of the subjects participating in the Bancomat Consortium, which occurs due to the provisions of the new rules for the remuneration of circular withdrawals, entails a restriction of competition, also taking into account the impact on the competitive capacity of the various operators, also in consideration of the different extension of the ATM network”.
For the Antitrust, therefore, the new project constitutes a restriction of competition as it establishes a series of common rules which determine anti-competitive effects consisting in the significant increase in the average withdrawal commissions for users by the participating banks; in the creation of obstacles for competition between banks in the provision of services to customers, since for these there will be no possibility of influencing a competitive variable (i.e. the possibility of determining the withdrawal commission in circularity and the possibility of not doing so pay the customer); in increasing the incentives for participating banks to collude.
Furthermore, Bancomat has not demonstrated the presence of a direct relationship between the decrease in the ATM network and the current remuneration model and, therefore, any efficiencies that would have resulted in this sense from the introduction of the new model. In fact, on the basis of the elements that emerged during the preliminary investigation, the Authority found that the main causes of the downsizing of the ATM network are due to an overall evolution of the market, characterized by various factors. Among these, the rationalization of the network following bank concentrations, corporate decisions of credit institutions and also optimization logics that may not depend on mere circular withdrawals.
Furthermore, there was the timing with which Bancomat announced the proposed contractual amendment in 2020: a few weeks after the agreement reached with the government for the elimination of commissions on digital payments up to 5 euros.