Right, I'm gonna pick up on a customers' side problem (which I figure has parallels elsewhere too) but this ties in strongly with the big banks being a cartel, and being seen as untouchable.
Around here in Sweden, three out of the four large banks (who between them have 90 or 95% of households and major businesses as customers, and who dominate the domestic credit market, including housing and private pensions) announced recently that from July on, they will not be handling cash over the counter at all at most of their offices. Sending or cashing in money orders at the counter of one's local bank has already been prohibitively expensive for several years in this country (extra fees, plus it takes time because frankly you don't get served with this kind of thing except at a very slow pace), but from now on, it's mostly a full stop. Barred, too, will be the actions of adding funds to your bank account, or your child's account (because you might need it to pay a timed transfer that can't wait, or because you received a few thousand in cash, or as a money order, for a job and you're not comfortable having it in the mattress or in a drawer in your table); picking up money from a pensions or wage account to which you don't have a card, and need to do it over the counter. Or because for various reasons you're not eligible for a visa card or the like. Anything of that kind, as long s you want it done inside the local bank office, in safety, gets blocked (in many places and especially in smaller towns, which is where it would be needed the most!) by three out of the big four. The fourth one will still be holding on to it, but probably with restricted hours - only before noon on three out of five weekdays or something.
All of these bank chains are saying they will be putting up automatic machines to allow for adding cash funds to an account. This is funny because last time I checked, most of them refused to set up that kind of beast, saying piously that they'd offer a route for money laundry and were too expensive to operate. The bank chain I'm using actually has that kind at some of their offices, even my local one, but up til two months ago, they were alone in this policy. Typical money withdrawal machines are all over the landscape of course, from the vestibules of banks to shopping malls and railway stations, but essentially customers have been told to manage their own business for a long time, and it's even something you get to pay for the priviliege of doing (I pay eq. of four bucks a month for having the "right" to do my banking erands online and holding a visa card). It's a no-brainer that several of these banks would want to have a small fee every time you withdraw money from your account at an automat, but it's proved an unsellable idea every time it's been suggested. When I pay with my card in a shop or online, though, the bank cashes in a little on it, not from me personally though, from the shop.
Predictably, every time you ask a banker they will wash their hands and say "anyone can learn to do their banking over the internet, it's not hard, and it's safe, and doesn't everyone have broadband these days? And if your old aunt Joan don't feel like learning it, and doesn't feel comfortable withdrawing her pensions money out in the street, where anyone can watch her, we'll have specially trained people who will help those folks do it, so everything will be fine". Those guarantees and promises don't amount to diddley of course. as soon as you are outside of the doors of the bank office, the bank has no legal responsibility if somebody jumps at aunt Joan and grabs her oversized wad of bills, or even poses as one of the "helpful assistants" paid to help with the transaction. And it's not as if absolutely everyone has internet either, is it? Or wants to learn to use it (you and I have no trouble, but what about some other kinds of people?) And no, the same kind of cut-down of service has been happening at post offices too.
Well, the trimming on customer service will push a segment of them over to other banks - including local banks - that do offer this kind of services, and who may also offer better interest dividends on personal savings, but there is little chance those banks would be able to get anything like the profits the big boys are making, or still less, the actual leverage the "big four" have with the state and with big business.
The end sum of it is: you're an utter nobody in this town if you don't hold a visa card, preferably a credit card, and have a decent inflow of digital cash to your account/s. What makes it even more offensive is that most of these banks were saved from collapse in the mid-90s by massive, multi-billion loans from the state national bank and the national treasury (have you heard it before, Americans?) There was even something called the Bank Emergency at the Swedish finance department at the time. The banks were indeed considered "too big to fail". In time, they did pay back most of the loans they had received to the treasury (who shoveled the money elsewhere), and they have long since recovered. There is no recognition from these banks though that they were implicated, from the start, in their own troubles or that they owe anything to the public and the taxpayers. And everyone knows that if another crisis would erupt, these same banks would be seen as too big to fail, all over again. Now though, we are also sitting with entire countries that are too big to fail, and whose debt contagion and need for money transfusions could spread all over the continent.
I think both the banks and the political establishment are badly in denial about these issues:
1)about the unacceptable human costs if something would fail: with a money system that's 95% running on digital money, a power failure or local internet trouble is enough to wreck many people's economy, or even their homes and lives.
2) about the lack of fairness and responsibility when all you have to say is, "if this bank goes down, everybody else goes down with us, don't they? so just pay our costs!"
3) about the risks of long-term instability and mass unemployment (or let's be frank: even worse mass joblessness).
Just because a particular bunch of politicians have been elected, that doesn't mean they have a blank cheque to do anything and everything they feel good about, together with their cronies in banks and big biz.