ATM charges put on hold.jpg

ATM charges put on hold


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THE INTRODUCTION of charges for using a debit card in Portugal is still being considered, although it seems increasingly likely that the measure will be delayed until next year.

A spokesman from SIBS, the company that manages the multibanco machines, said that no increase in prices is expected and that nothing is likely to be changed with the current multibanco system this year.

However, there could be some changes by 2010 when the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) system comes into force.

The SEPA system was created by banking organisations and is supported by the European Commission.

The purpose, it is said, is to simplify consumers’ lives by allowing  users to do all their banking operations, including abroad, through one bank account only and, theoretically, to reduce their banking expenses.

Vítor Bento, the President of SIBS, told Portuguese news agency Lusa, that SEPA will not bring anything new to Portugal, because it already has one of the most advanced payments systems in the world, allowing dozens of functions to be carried out that do not exist in other countries.

A spokesman for the Banco de Portugal, the Bank of Portugal, told The Resident that the application of ATM charges was not a measure that was being studied but could not say whether it would be applied in the future.

The issue of the ATM commission has been discussed at length in the Portuguese media and led the Portuguese Communist Party to present a law proposal in Parliament in July 2007, asking for the government to prohibit the banking sector from charging consumers for withdrawing money.

An online petition protesting against the banking sector’s plans to introduce ATM charges across Portugal had received 290,655 signatures at the time The Resident went to press, since being started last year. Charging customers for the service is a subject that has been discussed since 1994, when the national banks proposed charging a commission on cash withdrawals from ATM machines.

Consumers reacted negatively and the issue was dropped.

The matter returned to the public spotlight in 2001, with bankers defending publicly the “justice” of a small commission. Such charges have been in use in the United States and several European countries for many years.

Following the implementation of the SEPA system, started this year and expected to run across all Euro countries by 2010, bankers are now saying that a cash withdrawal commission is being imposed by the EU.

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