ATM fee disclosure would cost US banks dear

ATM fee disclosure would cost US banks dear

Real-time disclosure of ATM transaction fees would be a complex and expensive undertaking for the US banking industry says a recent study conducted by the General Accounting Office. The US Congress directed the GAO to investigate bank ATM charges under the Financial Modernisation Act of 1999.

Kurt Helwig, executive director of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, which has been lobbying Congress on behalf of the industry, welcomed the GAO report: "The EFTA Task Force on Fee Disclosure concluded that real-time ATM fee disclosure `would be an extraordinarily complex and expensive technological undertaking with potential negative effects that far outweigh the benefit of providing ATM users with already-disclosed fee information. Real-time disclosure is not feasible because ATM fees are often known only at the end of customers' periodic statement cycles when account relationships and transaction activity for the prior month are analyzed retrospectively."

The GAO broadly concurred with these findings, concluding that real-time ATM fee disclosure would require extensive restructuring by all major participants. According to the report: "Banks, networks, and ATM owners of all sizes would likely incur significant fixed costs to install, test, and certify the hardware and software that would be needed to implement real-time ATM fee disclosure."

The GAO reported that its industry contacts were unable to give specific cost estimates for developing real-time ATM fee disclosure capabilities because of the many variables involved, but termed the cost of compliance "extensive". It quoted two industry representatives who compared the effort and costs that would be involved to the Y2K readiness effort, which cost the financial industry an estimated $10 billion.

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