The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the Treasury Select Committee’s decision to launch an inquiry into consumer access to financial services.

It will seek evidence on the impact of reducing the number of free-to use ATMs and provision of Post Office services in areas where bank branches have closed.

ACS chief executive, James Lowman said: “Local shops are filling the gap in local financial service provision, where bank branches have been closed, by providing free to use ATMs, Post Office and bill payment services.

We hope the inquiry will bring into focus the importance of these services to local communities and the challenges faced by retailers for hosting these services. Cash also remains an essential method of payment for customers in convenience stores, 76% of customers pay by cash.

“Reduction in the interchange fees and the application of business rates to through the wall ATM have increased costs for retailers providing free to use ATMs. Banks and regulators need to be held to account for policies that threaten widespread and free access to cash.”

Polling from ACS’ Community Barometer research shows that the public believe Post Offices and convenience stores have the most positive impact on local communities. Convenience stores play an important role in hosting financial services; 62% have cash machines, 64% have bill payment services and 23% have Post Offices.