The collaboration of four major banks in introducing bank-neutral ATMs – christened Batubin – has been a major fiasco by Economy Minister Pierre-Yves Dermann (PS). It threatens to raise interbank rates in order to encourage banks to maintain their sufficiently wide network. “It is time for banks to respect their obligations, laws and their customers,” the deputy prime minister said.
On Thursday, Minister Dermagne was asked several questions about Batopin in plenary. This is the alliance of BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, Belfius and ING to roll out new bank-neutral ATMs. After Batuben’s arrival, 98.79 percent of the Belgian population should have an ATM within five kilometers of their home.
However, many parties – even within the majority – are not reassured by the plans, as it turned out Thursday in plenary. This also applies to Minister Dermagne. “The project is annoying. Cannot guarantee that every Belgian has easy access to ATMs. This is problematic. It is not possible,” he answered questions from Dieter van Bessian (Green), Lyn Derek (CD&V), Kathleen Verhelst (Open) Vld), Maxime Privaux (cdH) and François de Smet (DéFI).
According to the French-speaking socialist, the plan contains some improvements compared to the previous proposal a few months ago. He insists that access to financial services should be guaranteed to every citizen, regardless of where they live and regardless of their digital knowledge. Along with his colleagues Vincent van Peteghem (Finance) and Eva de Bleecker (Consumer Protection), he will test Batofen, Vebleveen and Jofko. “Banks have a duty to society and their customers.”
The Minister of Economy also wrote a letter to the Governor of the National Bank asking him to analyze the increase in interbank interest rates. He explained that banks have to pay fees to other institutions if their customers withdraw money from a machine belonging to another bank. The logic goes, the higher the fees, the more banks can be encouraged to keep their network wide enough. Although the National Bank still had to consider the opportunity, as well as possible consequences and suggest possible alternatives.
Dermagne was also keen on KBC Bank. You will plan to charge a fee for cash withdrawals in the Batopin network, even if KBC is part of it. This is in violation of the Universal Banking Service Charter and the gentlemen’s agreement on 24 free withdrawals. This will not work. Could you do that! “
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