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11:14 AM
Bryan Yurcan
Bryan Yurcan
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Lawsuit Over ATM Fees Latest in Banks' PR Woes

A lawsuit alleges that Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo conspired with card issuers Visa and MasterCard to fix out-of-network prices.

The banking industry has been dealing with a seemingly endless parade of negative PR lately. Between invective directed toward banks by the growing numbers of the Occupy Wall Street movement to outrage over new bank debit card fees (including from the vice president of the United States), it's safe to say banks probably rank alongside lawyers and members of Congress in approval rating right now.

A new lawsuit filed this week has brought more negative attention to banks, regardless of whether the suit has merit or not. According to published reports, a New Jersey man has sued Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo alleging they took part with Visa and MasterCard in a "conspiracy to fix the prices" consumers pay when they use an ATM that's not in their bank's network.

The suit is actually the third filed this month along these lines. The two others, filed by individuals in California and Washington and by operators of independent ATMs, make similar claims against MasterCard.

Regardless of the outcome, this is another headache the three banking giants named in the suit will have to deal with. And it will be interesting to see if community banks and credit unions take advantage of this to lure away more customers from big banks. Already, one Florida-based community bank is trying to capitalize on Bank of America's much-maligned monthly debit card fee by offering new customers $5 per month for 12 months for opening a new checking account with direct deposit.

Some smaller banks have already began eliminating out-of-network ATM fees, and I wonder if even more will do so, using this most recent news to bolster their marketing efforts.

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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