The Antitrust blocks the reform of the ATM system requested by the banks. “Costs for customers would increase”

The Competition and Market Authority (Antitrust) has closed the investigation relating to the project to amend the remuneration model for circular withdrawals from ATMs (ATMs, ed) with cards from the Bancomat circuit, presented by the Bancomat consortium to which they belong 122 Italian credit institutions. According to the Antitrust, the new remuneration model would amount to a restriction of competition to the detriment of consumers and would cause a increase in withdrawal fees.

Under the current regime the bank that issued the card used to withdraw, pay one interchange fee of 47 euro cents (Mif) to the institution that owns the branch where the money is withdrawn. The issuing bank can then in turn charge a commission to his client. Possibility but not obligation, smaller banks, with few branches, for example, tend not to do it. In the reform proposed by the ATM consortium sainstead, the branch where the cash withdrawal takes place would make the decision whether and which rate to apply to the customer with a maximum of 1.5 euros. The reform was requested above all by the larger institutions with more branches.

However, at the end of a detailed investigation, the Authority found that the new project would constitute a restriction of competition and a significant increase in average withdrawal fees. Furthermore, Bancomat has not provided evidence, individually and in detail, that each of the four conditions set out in art. 101.3 which could have led to an exemption in derogation. In particular, the circuit 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 essence, the Antitrust says that the fact that branches are decreasing does not depend on the fact that they are not very profitable, or even a cost, for the banks.

According to the Antitrust, branches have decreased as a result of banking mergers, of corporate choices of credit institutions and also of optimization logics which may not depend on the mere withdrawal. For example, even in areas with a high density of withdrawals, such as tourist or heavily commercial areas, too many branches can be inefficient. This is a circumstance that is confirmed by the data acquired according to which – against a contraction of the network (between 2015 and 2021 the number of branches fell by 28.4% and that of ATMs by 13.9%) – there was an increase in ATMs for each branch. The evidence on‘absence of a link between the drop in ATM and the remuneration model usedo are moreover consistent with the findings received in the preliminary investigation from the other national competition authorities.

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