The Office of Thrift Supervision added its voice to the debate over automated teller machine surcharging last week, arguing that financial institutions' right to impose usage fees on noncustomers is guaranteed under federal law and cannot be undermined by a municipal ordinance.

The city council of Santa Monica, Calif., voted Oct. 12 to ban ATM surcharging and proposed making banks liable for $5,000 in punitive damages for each violation.

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