An Access Regime for the ATM System – February 2009 1. Introduction

For some years the Reserve Bank and industry participants have been working together on a reform package for the ATM system, with this package due to come into effect on 3 March 2009. The Bank's role in the reform process has been primarily to focus discussion on the need for improvement in current arrangements and to facilitate cooperation and compromise between the disparate parties that make up the ATM industry. Notwithstanding this role, the industry recently requested that the Bank use its regulatory powers to give legal certainty to the reform package. While the Bank would have preferred a solution that did not involve regulation, it is prepared to introduce an access regime to give effect to key parts of the reform package.

This document discusses the reform package and sets out the Bank's analysis and reasoning leading to its decision to implement an Access Regime.[1] In the Bank's view, the reform package, including the complementary changes to access arrangements being made by industry participants, will deliver significant benefits for consumers. In particular, the reforms will improve competition among the suppliers of ATM services, increase the availability of ATMs, and increase the transparency of the fees that cardholders are charged for withdrawing cash from an ATM. Without the reforms, there is a significant risk that the number of ATMs in Australia will decline over time, as non-bank owners of ATMs find it unprofitable to deploy and service machines.

Notwithstanding these benefits, over the next year or so the Bank is seeking more fundamental changes to the infrastructure supporting the ATM system which should ultimately render aspects of the Access Regime redundant. In particular, in the Bank's view new entrants to the ATM system should be able to connect to the system with one link using a common message standard, rather than the current requirement for a multiplicity of links using multiple, often incompatible, message formats. The need for further improvements to the current arrangements provides important context for the way the Access Regime has been constructed, with the Bank viewing aspects of the Regime as relatively temporary in nature and necessary to ensure the benefits of the industry reform package are obtained, rather than an endorsement of current practices.

The next section provides some background on the ATM system in Australia and the need for reform, with Section 3 outlining the key elements of the reform package that has been developed by the industry. Section 4 presents the elements of the Draft Access Regime that has formed the basis for consultation, while Section 5 covers the views on that Regime expressed in consultation and the Bank's response to those views. Section 6 presents the Bank's analysis of why the imposition of the Access Regime is in the public interest. The final Access Regime is provided in the attachment.


This paper should be read in conjunction with the earlier Consultation Document on the draft Access Regime issued on 10 December 2008. See [1]