Fleet Financial Group Inc. is suing the state of Connecticut for the right to charge noncustomers to use its automated teller machines.
The state's banking commissioner claims that Connecticut's law bans the charges in the state. Fleet disagrees with his interpretation. The bank filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.
"It seems to us patently unfair that noncustomers should use our ATMs for free when those services incur expenses for Fleet Bank," said a spokesman for the bank.
Though Fleet is paid a fee by the consumers' bank, he said the 30 cents to 40 cents "doesn't begin to cover the expense of the transaction."
Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said the state will block Fleet's surcharge.
"Consumers should not be asked to pay excessive charges by Fleet or any other bank," he said in a release. "I am surprised that (Fleet) would attempt to do something that no other bank in the state has attempted to do."
Though surcharging has become widespread in the rest of the country, it has not caught on in the Northeast.
Fleet recently began surcharging customers in New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine. It was the first big bank to impose the fees on noncustomers in New York, and its action incurred the wrath of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato. The New York Republican intends to introduce legislation banning the charges nationwide.