Not to be outdone by Washington, a New York State banking committee on Friday held a hearing on automated teller machine fees.
Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene, who leads the Assembly Banking Committee, said the hearing was held "in response to rising ATM fees, surcharging concerns, and the possibility that ATM owners will impose those fees on New Yorkers."
Three proposals for legislation - regarding the disclosure of fees and surcharges, a possible cap on surcharges, and a possible ban on surcharges - have been introduced into the New York State Assembly in the past couple of months.
In Washington, Alfonse M. D'Amato, Senate Banking Committee chairman, introduced a bill last week prohibiting ATM operators from imposing user fees. His bill followed the introduction of two separate bills in Congress.
Ms. Greene said her committee is "trying to get a clear understanding" of the fees and whether there is a need for them.
Testifying at the Assembly hearing room in downtown Manhattan, Timothy Carey, representing New York Governor George Pataki's office, said "The State Consumer Protection Board would oppose any efforts to double-charge consumers for an ATM transaction."
But he suggested the committee "keep in mind that we need to maintain our competitiveness with banks in states surrounding New York as well as federally chartered banks."
Although few banks in New York have imposed the charges, Mr. Carey said, First Union Corp., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is charging noncustomers for using its New York machines.
Cathy Weintraub, director of economic research for the New York State Banking Department, raised concerns about the welfare of community banks. She said that although proponents say competitive market forces will keep fees at reasonable levels, one might ask whether "the widespread imposition of surcharges (would) unduly harm small banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions."
Dennis Lynch, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NYCE Corp., said the owner of the NYCE ATM network "believes that free operation of the market will produce the best outcome for the consumer."
He said a more "sound and rational approach" than banning surcharges would be to make consumers aware of their choices, such as visiting their own bank's ATMs, getting cash back at the point of sale, and using human tellers.
Consumer advocates at the hearing, meanwhile, contended that as bank branches close, especially in lower income neighborhoods, and are replaced by ATMs, consumers will have little choice but to pay the fees if they are implemented.