Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ATM Fee Signage (Continued)

According to the Beaumont Enterprise a New York man is suing a Texas credit union alleging that it failed to post a notice on one of its ATMs stating the cost of using the machine, as required by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

Five weeks ago we blogged about lawsuits over fee notification which are costing the financial industry big bucks. I'm sure there are cases where the disclosure notice was missing from an ATM. The court will decide if this case is one of them. But the costs of the nuisance suits will eventually be passed on to consumers like in every other industry. In "ATM Fee Disclosure: Updating Regulation to Limit Jackpot Justice" we made the argument that nuisance lawsuits over this issue have become a get-rich quick cottage industry.

I know some people find it shocking that banks actually charge people - with whom they have no commercial relationship - to use the bank's equipment. Next thing you're going to tell me is that if a perfect stranger knocks on my door and wants to use my car I can't charge him for the gas.  

According to the court filing, the plaintiff in this particular case claims that that he used an ATM of the Firestone Community Federal Credit Union  in Orange and was charged two bucks, and that the fee notification was not posted on the machine as required by law.

If the plaintiff is successful in his legal quest, what would be the remedy? I personally think he should be compensated. I think a fair number would be - two bucks. If I ran Firestone Community FCU I'd issue him a bank check for two dollars and point him to one of the Lone Star State's many fine check cashiers. See how he likes those fees.

At some point ATM signage suits become frivolous. I would think, given the publicity that this issue has received within the credit union industry, that any credit union or bank would be crazy not to make sure by now that their fee notices were plastered to their ATMs with Gorilla Glue, Mighty Putty or something used in the space program.

Meanwhile, speaking of deciding,  I think its time for Congress to decide whether this whole thing over ATM signage has gotten out of hand. It's time to recognize, 15 years after ATM owners started charging for the use of their property, that fee notification on the screen, which is much more secure and visible, fulfills the intent of the EFT Act.

That's my opinion. What's yours?

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