Expatica news

Socialists call for more cash machines

8 December 2004

BRUSSELS – Leading members of Belgium’s French-speaking socialist party have called for legislation to force Belgian banks to make more cash dispensers accessible to all.

Freddy Thielemans, the PS (Parti Socialiste) mayor for Brussels, Julie Fiszman, a Brussels Region MP and Karine Lalieux, a federal MP, have unveiled a plan to stop the tendency of banks to increasingly reserve cash dispensers for their customers.

At the moment, Belgium has 6,500 cash machines, with only 1,153 available to all banking customers – the rest are so-called self-banks.

“That’s too few to allow genuine competition between banks,” said Lalieux.

“In some areas, in some small villages, there is only a single bank with a machine for the exclusive use of its customers. In that case, residents are held hostage by the bank: they aren’t going to choose a competitor because then they couldn’t withdraw their money easily.”

The socialists want to see banks taxed more for their self-bank machines and taxed more favourably – eventually perhaps not at all – for dispensers that can be used by everyone.

Under their strategy, banks would pay into a central fund.

They would then be allocated money back to meet the costs of installing and running cash machines, depending on the number they offered.

They also want machines installed in public places such as post offices and stations, with the cost met largely by Banksys, which manages the cash machine network.

The socialists want their proposals implemented first in Brussels commune – to ensure change happens quickly – followed by legislation at a regional and federal level.

“In the capital, it’s urgent that we sort out the problem of the lack of cash dispensers,” said Thielemans.

He wants changes to the commune’s taxes to start from 2006, with a tax levied on branches without general machines increased from EUR 250 to EUR 2,500.

The banks have met the socialists’ proposals with irritation. Jacques Zeegers, the general secretary of the Belgian Association of Banks (ABB), said a committee was investigating the problem of payment methods, headed by the governor of the Belgian national bank.

“The least we should do is to wait for the end of that investigation, the results of which are due in the first three months of 2005,” he said.

Banksys is also carrying out a study into the shortfalls of the cash machine system in Belgium, which should be finished at the start of next year.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news