ACS welcomes focus on keeping cash accessible to shoppers

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the publication of the Payment Systems Regulator’s Annual Plan and its focus on ensuring that the card market is fair, and that communities have access to cash in the future.

The plan includes reference to the following areas as priorities for the regulator:
• Monitoring the impact of LINK’s cut to interchange fees on the UK’s network of free to use ATMs
• Securing the access to cash that consumers and businesses will need in the future
• Promoting competition by continuing to examine the way that merchant fees for card-acquiring services work and whether they’re fair for small businesses
• Monitoring compliance with EU level interchange fee regulations

ACS has warned that LINK’s decision to lower the interchange fees paid by banks to card machine operators will result in communities’ access to cash being threatened. While LINK have amended their position and put some of its future interchange fee cuts on hold, some machines are already being removed or switched to a pay-to-use model as a result of the cuts that have taken place.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman said, “The Payment Systems Regulator plays an important role in holding banks, LINK and card scheme operators to account, ensuring that the fees for accepting card payments are fair and transparent, and closely monitoring the free to use ATM network to maintain free access to cash for communities across the UK.

'We welcome the PSR’s plans for the coming year, and will continue to feedback the experience of our members.”

Earlier this year, the PSR confirmed the terms of reference for its review into the card payments market. In the terms, the PSR cited concerns raised by stakeholders, including ACS, about the market not being fair. These include:

• Acquirers not passing on to smaller merchants (retailers) the savings they made from interchange fee caps
• A lack of transparency around the fees merchants pay to accept card payments
• Barriers that make it hard for merchants to compare and switch acquirers
• A significant increase in the scheme fee portion of the fees that merchants pay to acquirers

Figures from the ACS Voice of Local Shops Survey show that more than half (59%) of convenience retailers have seen an increase in the cost of processing card payments since 2016, with almost one in three (32%) reporting that the costs have increased significantly.

The PSR is expected to publish an interim report on the card payments market by the end of 2019.