Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato on Thursday asked the Federal Reserve Board to study whether stronger consumer protection laws are needed for debit cards.

In a letter to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Sen. D'Amato complained that the cards pose an "unlimited liability" for consumers because they can be used without a personal identification number.

"A consumer who carries this new card may have no idea that its loss or theft could easily result in unauthorized withdrawals from his or her bank account," he said. "I am very concerned that existing Electronic Fund Transfer Act disclosures may not adequately inform consumers."

Sen. D'Amato asked the Fed to study whether additional disclosure rules are needed. He also asked whether card issuers should be permitted to replace an automated teller machine card with a debit card without a customer's permission. He asked the Fed to respond by Sept. 2.

In July, Reps. Charles Schumer of New York and Thomas Barrett of Wisconsin introduced legislation that would limit customer liability for lost or stolen debit cards to $50. Last week, MasterCard International volunteered to impose that cap on its U.S. member banks by yearend.

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