Tasnim Aslam, who runs Right Price in South Shields, says she got a letter from Cashzone in April saying it was covering the cost of the rates “to prevent fines and penalties from the VOA in the short term”. The letter added that Cashzone was not accepting liability, just removing immediate pressure on customers.
The cost, in her case, would be £1,878.02. When she contacted me she had received a further letter giving her seven days to cough up, or else. The name she was given at the company to discuss/settle was never available, despite numerous calls.
Tasnim did speak to another contact regarding her contract. She was told that her initial seven-year contract had run out last year. Since she didn’t give Cashzone her cancellation in writing three months before the contract ended, she had been automatically rolled over for another three years.
She spoke to the VOA, which told her that, based on transaction figures for 2008, her rateable value for the ATM was £900, but she would only have to pay £432 for four years (don’t ask me, I’m just reporting).
What really worried Tasnim is that, back in 2008, her ATM had far fewer transactions because it was not free to use. Two years ago a Note Machine was installed over the road and hers was converted so that she could compete. Now she does triple the number of transactions.
This situation is clearly not viable for her. She dug out her original contract (the only one she has) and there was no mention of liability for rates because, of course, the government hadn’t thought it up yet. She also discovered that she was supposed to make 5p per transaction on the free-to-use machine. “But I had to fight to get just under 3p.”
We had several conversations over the course of a week during which time Tasnim also went to the NFRN legal helpline – they are going to read the agreement for her.
Then she came to a conclusion. She was going to stop chasing Cashzone, which apparently only had one person to discuss what cannot be an isolated incident.
It isn’t, because I also had a call from Tobin Dewan (Best-one, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) who has had a demand from Cashzone for £3,715. He too cannot reach the one and the same person he has been told to contact. But so far Tobin is just watching and waiting. And that’s what Tasnim is going to do, too.
Meanwhile, to give Cashzone its say: here is a comment from Tim Halford, commercial director at Cashzone owner Cardtronics.
“In 2013, the government decided to put separate business rates on many through-the-wall ATMs in stores and on forecourts. This effectively means that shop owners are not only charged business rates for their stores, but the taxman is holding out a hand for separate rates for their ATMs as well. Many retailers who rely on their ATM to help drive footfall and in-store spend, and are fighting hard to keep their businesses alive, are being pressured by this tax and in many cases are considering removing the ATMs. This will have an impact not only on their stores, but also on the local community and surrounding retailers.
“We have been working with various stakeholders in the convenience and forecourt sector, as well as local MPs, to ensure this issue is not overlooked and receives the attention it deserves in the government’s ongoing review of business rates.”