What Consumer Groups Are Advising

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Among the policies Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America are urging financial institutions to adopt when it comes to implementing the new Check 21 laws are:

* Don't use Check 21 to bounce more checks. Give consumers the benefit of faster check clearing by crediting consumer accounts when the check clears, even if the law allows you to wait longer for deposited checks. And help consumers get used to this new law by suspending bounced check fees during the first two months of implementation.

* Promise to return funds to a consumer's checking account within ten business days when something goes wrong with a check no matter how the check was processed and no matter what kind of copy of the check the consumer receives. Don't charge a fee for substitute checks.

* Offer an account that returns substitute checks every month for no more than the price the bank has been charging for an account that returns original checks.

"Banks shouldn't use this new law as an excuse to bounce more checks, charge more fees, or provide customers with unequal protection depending on how their checks have been processed," said Jean Ann Fox, Director of Consumer Protection for Consumer Federation of America. "We urge banks to adopt these reforms to make Check 21 less disruptive and onerous for consumers."

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