But again this week, NDP leader Jack Layton was in the news demanding banks be legislated into reducing or eliminating ATM user fees. Can’t have those big, successful, profitable banks charging their customers for services! It’s not the commie-Canuck way. And, depressingly, finance minister Jim Flaherty had already felt compelled, by Jack’s previous press coverage, to send the banks a letter requesting they explain their fees.
Advocating this kind of micro-meddling in banks’ affairs borders on the lunatic. A short-list of reasons springs to mind:
- bank machines cost money to own and operate
- using an ATM is strictly voluntary - no one is forced to use them
- using another bank’s ATM is rarely necessary, almost always a convenience
- government micro-management of ‘free’ enterprise is folly, and a very slippery slope
I know Layton and his dopey Dippers just love to play Robin Hood heros to the ‘little-people’. But if he really wanted to help he would campaign to get government’s greasy fingers out of our pockets. Every time I spend $100 of hard-earned, already income-taxed money I get hit with mandatory additional taxes of $6 to $13 (and much more for beer and gas). A fee of, at most, $1.50 (plus tax?) for voluntary use of an ATM is a comparative bargain.
Governments do have a role in regulating banking and ensuring they don’t behave anti-competitively. However, mickey-mouse fiddling with ATM fees is ridiculous. But if the banks do cave in and cut these fees, expect to see fee 'adjutments' elsewhere to compensate.