NEW YORK - Some three weeks after he abruptly announced his intention to propose a law banning automated teller machine surcharges, the head of the New York City Council told bankers that he would welcome alternative proposals for curtailing the fees, a spokesman said.

In two separate meetings Friday - with New York Bankers Association president Michael P. Smith and executives from Chase Manhattan Corp. - Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone said he still plans to propose a bill. At the same time, he is "open to all suggestions for trying to achieve the same ends," spokesman Michael Clendenin said, declining to be more specific.

Mr. Smith, who stressed the potential harm to the city's economy, said he was pleased the city official had left the door open for further talks.

A surge in antisurcharge sentiment began this fall when Santa Monica and San Francisco both passed ordinances prohibiting banks from levying a surcharge - one of two fees often charged to consumers who use an ATM not owned by their own bank. Though a judge has barred those cities from enforcing the ordinances during pending litigation over their validity, several other cities have begun exploring similar restrictions. In response, Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. have shut off their Santa Monica ATMs to noncustomers, and other big banking companies have warned consumers may see more of that if new rules are imposed.

- Helen Stock

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