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How ATM lawsuits could hurt you

By David McMillin · Bankrate.com
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Posted: 9 am ET

If you're a regular reader, you may remember an earlier post about the rise of ATM lawsuits and the consumers who have been waging a war against some financial institutions for failure to post signs about out-of-network fees. Well, banks and credit unions have joined forces with the Electronic Funds Transfer Association to fight back. If they lose the battle, guess who may pay the cost? Well, pretty much everyone else.

In a letter to Congress, a range of trade associations representing banks, credit unions and convenience stores requested legislators to eliminate the need for printed fee disclosure statements outside of ATMs. Essentially, the coalition wants digital warning displays to act as sufficient warning. Here's an excerpt from an article from the Credit Union National Association, or CUNA.

CUNA and other banking and trade groups said both the number and cost of these lawsuits have risen precipitously over the past 18 months. Without some regulatory changes, 'the number of these baseless lawsuits will continue to rise as will the cost of this service to consumers,' and the number of ATMs that are made available to consumers could ultimately decrease, the letter warned.

Translation: Next time those ATM fees climb, we may need to place some of the blame on the actions of a few account holders. While ATM fees will continue to increase, the letter shows that some consumer protests are practically giving financial institutions an excuse to charge more.

We've heard plenty of conversations about consumer protections as the CFPB has launched, and many of these protections -- like easy-to-read checking account terms and standards for prepaid cards -- are long overdue. However, I believe owners are already taking the necessary steps to inform anyone who uses their machines of these out-of-network expenses with on-screen warnings before withdrawing cash.

What do you think? Should Congress amend the Electronic Funds Transfer Act to meet the demands of the digital age?

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