As bankers gear up to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, vendors of used automated teller machines are bracing themselves for a body blow to their business.
Over the past three years, demand for used ATMs has increased dramatically as a way top cut costs. Institutions purchasing the refurbished older models typically felt the functional advantages of a new ATM were not significant enough to justify spending $10,000 to $15,000 more than they would for a used machine.
But with the coming of the Americans with Disabilities Act, all that has changed.
The 1990 law requires that banks make substantial portions of their facilities - including their automated teller machine sites - accessible to people with disabilities by Jan. 26, 1992.
In the last eight months, Inter-Bold, NCR Corp., and Fujitsu Systems of America Inc., - which manufacture more than 95% of the ATMs sold in the United States - have all brought new machines to market that offer access to people in wheelchairs and by individuals with hearing or vision impairments.
By contrast, most used models are not ready to accommodate disabled individuals. And, with federal fines for noncompliance with the ADA starting at $50,000, some ATM resellers fear that the $25,000 to $30,000 price tags on the new models are not as daunting to financial institutions as they once were.
Motivation Is Provided
"The Americans with Disabilities Act gives banks a reason to spend some extra money on a new machine," said Jo Anne Herndon, assistant vice president at King Computer Corp., Atlanta, one of the nation's largest used ATM dealers.
While figures from The Nilson Report, an industry newsletter, do not show any significant dropoff in used ATM sales yet, Ms. Herndon and others expect to see a change soon.
"The speculation around the industry is that the secondary market [for ATMs] will drop out in the first quarter of next year," she said.
Anticipating slower demand for the used models, resellers are doing their best to adapt to the changing market.
A number of companies, such as Tower Financial Systems and Services, Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., are investing in special facades that will make some machines accessible to people in wheelchairs. And many dealers are affixing braille instructions to all their machines.
But, while these improvements are helpful, some may fall short of meeting all the requirements of the new law.
For examle, the act requires that all people with visual impairments be able to independently use an ATM. Since not all visually impaired people have braille, machines must have some other non visual method of instruction. The best alternative - a computer-generated voice that leads a visually impaired person through each transaction - cannot be installed on most used models, experts said.
New Approaches Tried
To avoid such snags, some companies are diversifying their approach to the business. King Computer, for example, through an agreement with Fujitsu Systems of America in San Diego, has increased its commitment to the ATM leasing business.
By leasing brand new machines that comply with the law at around $500 per month, King Compuer believes it can garner the same pool of capital-poor insitutions that typically buy used machines, while also appealing to banks that want new ATMs.
But with all this repositioning, experts do not expect the market for used machines to disappear entirely. In as few as three years, used dealers expect large numbers of the disabled-accessible machines to find their way into the secondary market.
"There may be some waning of demand in the next couple of years, but eventually the cycle will come around again," said David Robertson of The Nilson Report.