Some consumers are turning their frustrations with bank fees into legal battles.
According to a recent story from the nonprofit credit union national association, or CUNA, one consumer named Don Anderson has filed 13 lawsuits against credit unions and banks for failing to post notices regarding ATM surcharges.
Here's a portion of the story discussing two of the suits filed against credit unions in Texas:
In both suits, Anderson is asking for class action status, as well as an award for statutory damages associated with the surcharges, payment of costs of the lawsuit and payment of reasonable attorneys' fees.
Now, I completely agree that machines should inform consumers of potential fees, and I despise paying out-of-network ATM fees. However, I'm having a difficult time understanding the "statutory damages" for a $2.50 surcharge. By now, I think the average consumer understands that the vast majority of banks and credit unions are going to charge them for using their machines. In fact, I would be surprised if I wasn't charged for using another institution's machine. Bankrate's 2011 Checking Account Survey shows that ATM fees have been rising consistently since 2004.
Technically, these lawsuits appear to have some merit based on the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which requires institutions to post disclosures about fees for using ATMs. Still, I'm amazed that a consumer would invest the time, money and effort to go after financial institutions in this manner, but I guess this type of lawsuit is nothing new. CUNA's article also mentions a retired couple who drove around the country searching for ATMs without fee warnings. If the machines didn't have information posted to disclose fee structures, the couple snapped photographs and filed class action lawsuits against the owners of the ATMs.
What do you think? Are these lawsuits warranted? Or do you simply expect to pay bank fees for using an out-of-network ATM?