Plan to fight crime with ATM fee does not add up - Irish Times
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Some day, Fintan O'Toole will write a bad article. This still isn't it. Dermot Ahern, of blasphemy infamy, has pulled another one out of the bag and O'Toole is there to lambast him. As with the resurrection of the mediaeval offense of slandering the divine during the State's financial crisis, Ahern has happily ignored all that is going on around him and come up with something really rather innovative.
After all, we pay from our taxes to put the money into the bank – to the tune of at least €25 billion. Why shouldn’t we pay to take it out as well? There would be a certain symmetry to the fleecing, a full circle of effrontery. On one side of the equation, we pony up for the costs of pinstripe banksterism. On the other, we shell out because of the actions of a ruder, more traditional breed of bank robbers.
Ahern has come to the conclusion that Ireland is too reliant on cash, and that this is the cause for all the recent bank-raids, tiger kidnappings and so on. Clearly shoddy bank security, ignorance of established security procedures, failure to follow Garda recommendations, the continuing existence of paramilitary organisations and burgeoning organised gang crime are far less important than the humble BankLink.
Since the common ATM is the source of all our problems, it makes perfect sense to tax the bejaysus out of it. I am definitely in favour of reducing the amount of cash we use, but why not use positive means to encourage consumers away from the paper notes?
In many other European countries, cash for everyday transactions is almost a thing of the past. In my beloved Finland, debit cards are used for even the smallest purchases in shops. They're quick and cheap enough to use for even buying chewing-gum!
In Ireland, most shops have a minimum spend before a card can be used. In the increasingly straitened times, the minimum spends are increasing. Some city-centre pubs now only allow the use of a card if you're buying at least 2 drinks. Businesses are unwilling to take on the charge from the banks for less than that.
Why not abolish the charge per transaction, and move towards a totally cash-less society? Surely that would benefit both consumers annd businesses eager for their custom.
But it wouldn't help the banks, which still, unbelievably, seems to be be the only concern of this government. As O'Toole says:
The truth is that the idea of penalising customers for their effrontery in using ATM machines has very little to do with fighting crime and everything to do with bullying us into doing what the banks want us to do. The banks – and many businesses – don’t like cheques, don’t like dealing in cash and would be much happier if we all behaved ourselves, got with the programme and used plastic. They’d be positively ecstatic if we use credit instead of debit cards, leaving ourselves open to fees and surcharges.
We pay the banks to keep our money for us, then we bail them out when they make a mess of things, then we pay the Army and Garda Síochána to protect our money as the banks drive it around and now they want us to pay to take it out of the hole-in-the-wall
The irony is priceless; for everything else there's MasterCard.