A coalition of big banks, retailers and other companies is raising the specter of widespread shutdowns of ATMs as it urges senators to oppose New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's effort to outlaw double-charging on teller machine transactions.
In a letter to all senators, the banks and other companies maintained that such a ban "will result in many ATMs closing, thus severely limiting future ATM deployment.""This will reduce ATM availability to many communities and constituents and end much of the convenience enjoyed by consumers today," said the letter, sent on Monday and released on Tuesday. It called D'Amato's proposed ban "anti-competitive" and a form of government price controls.
D'Amato, Republican chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was stymied in July by his own panel in his bid to attach an ATM surcharge ban to a bill that would allow small businesses to collect interest on checking accounts. He promised to keep trying by attempting to piggyback the proposed surcharge ban onto other legislation.
The Senate, newly returned from its summer recess, is preparing to consider measures to overhaul the laws governing financial services and the personal bankruptcy laws.
"It's just a lot of nonsense. They are not going to intimidate me," D'Amato said Tuesday of the letter and full-page ad the companies took out in The Washington Post. The ad depicts a man in a winter coat trying to use an ATM. A bar with the words "closed by Congress" cuts across the picture.
D'Amato disputed the notion that a surcharge ban would shut down ATMs, noting that the majority of the machines were installed before the double charges came into use.
ATMs save banks money by reducing the need for human tellers, but those savings haven't been passed on to consumers, he contended.
Some consumer groups also oppose ATM surcharges, which take effect when customers use an automated teller machine operated by a bank other than their own. The surcharges now average $1.27, with the most common $1.50, and 64 percent of the nation's banks impose them, according to a study by congressional investigators.