WASHINGTON – Credit unions and banks ran into new opposition by consumer groups who oppose a bill that would eliminate the requirement that fees charged non-customers at the ATM are posted both on the side of the machines, as well as on-screen.

“We strongly support the retention of the disclaimer (on the machine),” Edwin Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. Public Interest Group, told the Credit Union Journal Friday. But Mierzswinski said the consumer lobby is willing to work with credit unions and banks on ways to minimize frivolous lawsuits on the disclosures.

Travis Plunkett, chief lobbyist for the credit union-backed Consumer Federation of America, said the CFA has not adopted a formal stance yet but he also favors retention of the on-site disclosure. The consumer lobbyist said a compromise, such as having the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau arbitrate disputes on the disclosures, instead of the courts, may be acceptable to the consumer groups.

The emerging opposition by the consumer lobby comes as a key congressional committee is poised to vote a bill next week that would eliminate the dual disclosures, leaving the requirement that the fees be disclosed once—on screen.

The bill comes as credit unions and banks are facing growing lawsuits over the disclosures, required under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, by consumers saying they have transacted business at ATMs that lack the physical notice on the outside of the machine. A Michigan retiree who has sued 37 credit unions and banks in a dozen states over the law agreed last week to settle four more EFTA suits, two against West Virginia credit unions. Another consumer from New York has sued more than a dozen credit unions in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and New Mexico over the EFTA provisions, earning him and his lawyers thousands of dollars in the process.

US PIRG’s Mierzwinski said he is not convinced the on-screen disclosures alone are adequate consumer protection. He said he believes once a consumer has read the on-screen disclosures he is almost certain to complete the transaction. “Once you get to the on-screen disclosures you’re pretty much done; you’ve pretty much made the decision to go forward,” he said. His group is investigating claims by some consumers that even after they tried to cancel transactions after reading the on-screen disclosures they were charged non-customer fees.

 

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