A diverse group has joined the banking industry in opposition to legislation banning automated teller machine surcharges.

A March 2 letter signed by 37 groups was sent to every member of the Senate. Among the groups were eight trade associations representing a wide range of retailers, from grocers to truck-stop operators. A dozen banks endorsed the letter, as did the American Bankers Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, and the Bankers Roundtable.

If fees are prohibited, there will be fewer ATMs and consumers will be inconvenienced, the letter argues. "Price controls are anti-competitive, they stifle innovation, and they limit consumer choice."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., has made banning ATM fees one of his top three priorities for 1998. "We cannot take that lightly," said Beth Climo, the ABA's group director of financial industry affairs. "We wanted to show this is not just a bank issue. There are all kinds of interests affected."

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