WASHINGTON - Launching a preemptive strike against new disclosure laws, an automated teller machine network said Tuesday that 86% of consumers already feel they are adequately informed about surcharges.
What's more, a survey of 700 ATM users commissioned by Pulse EFT Association of Houston found that 82% know they can avoid surcharges by using their own bank's machines more, paying by credit card, or getting cash back at point-of-sale terminals.
"There is no real evidence that there should be any restrictive disclosure laws," said Stan Paur, Pulse's president and chief executive officer.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 codified existing industry practice of disclosing the fee imposed when consumers use ATMs that are not owned by their bank. But the law required the General Accounting Office to study the feasibility, costs, and benefits of also requiring ATM operators to disclose fees imposed by the consumer's own bank.
Mr. Paur said layering on that new disclosure would require expensive overhauls of current systems. "You're talking about retooling the entire infrastructure," he said. Pulse hammered home the point recently by arranging for GAO officials to meet with executives from a large bank, a mid-sized bank, and a small credit union.
The GAO study was due May 12, but the accounting office's director of financial institutions and markets issues, Tom McCool, said Tuesday that the agency plans to deliver its report to Congress in mid-July.
"It's a lot more complicated than I first thought," Mr. McCool said.
Asked about Pulse's claim that the vast majority of consumers are aware of ATM fees and do not need more disclosures, Mr. McCool said: "They have a point. I'm not sure it's the only point or the winning point. People know something. Whether they know enough is still up in the air."
Mr. McCool would not discuss any conclusions GAO investigators have reached, but he said the report has been drafted and will be circulated among banking regulators and some industry representatives in early June.
Dove Consulting Inc. and Analytica Inc. conducted the survey for Pulse, polling 700 people in seven states where ATM surcharging has been allowed for a decade: Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico.
In addition to finding consumers are informed about surcharges, the survey indicated that many people are not paying the fees. "Even though 75% of consumers report ATMs as their preferred method for getting cash, only 58% report that they have ever paid a surcharge," according to the survey results.
Just 36% of consumers polled have refused to complete an ATM transaction after being notified of a surcharge.
The survey found that many consumers are using ATM or debit cards at point-of-sale terminals to get cash and avoid paying a surcharge. In the survey, consumers said on average they used point-of-sale terminals 2.5 times in the previous two weeks, compared to 1.9 ATM transactions.
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