ILNews

ATM fee disclosure rules and related litigation

Jenny Montgomery
April 25, 2012
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In 2011, nine lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, in which plaintiffs sued owners or operators of ATMs for failing to post a sign advising users of usage fees. Similar suits have been filed around the country, and groups that represent ATM owners’ interests are calling for a change to federal law to stop further litigation.

The American Bankers Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores and five other national organizations wrote a letter in February to Washington, D.C., lawmakers, saying the lawsuits threaten the economic viability of ATM operators.

In their letter to members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and members of the House Committee on Financial Services, the groups advocated eliminating an ATM fee disclosure requirement that they say is no longer necessary due to advances in technology. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and its implementing rule, Regulation E (12 CFR 205.16), all ATMs must have two notices of a usage fee – one on-screen, and one attached to or near the ATM.

Financial industry leaders say that the dual notice may have been necessary before on-screen notices were as easy to read as they are today, but one inherent problem with the requirement for an exterior sign is that stickers or signs can be removed or defaced easily, putting the ATM owner at risk of a lawsuit.

According to Regulation E, when an ATM lacks a sign or placard advising of additional fees, successful class-action plaintiffs are entitled to recover the lesser of $500,000 or one percent of the net worth of the ATM operator, plus attorney fees and costs.

Derek Edwards, of the Tennessee firm Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, has defended clients in more than 100 ATM fee disclosure suits in courts around the country, including a case in Indiana, Lear v. ATM Access, No. 1:2011-CV-01321. He said that many ATM fee disclosure cases are filed against small ATM operators whose machines are housed inside larger businesses. Those cases seem to settle early, with no escalation to class-action status, he said.

Edwards estimates he spends at least half of each day working on defending against fee disclosure lawsuits, but estimating the number of similar cases nationwide is difficult, as many cases are coded improperly when entered in the PACER court records system. Congress may therefore be unaware of how widespread these lawsuits have become, he said.

On April 17, 2012, two members of the House Committee on Financial Services – U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., and David Scott, D-Ga., – filed H.R. 4367, which would eliminate the dual notice requirement required by EFTA. No further action had occurred on that bill by IL deadline.

An unrelated case that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering could affect the ability to recover damages under EFTA. The case – First American Financial Corp., Successor in Interest to The First American Corp., et al., Petitioners v. Denise P. Edwards – presents a question of whether a plaintiff may bring a class-action complaint against a defendant when the plaintiff has not suffered any “injury of fact,” as defined by Article 3, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Some ATM fee disclosure cases have been dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted; while others have been successful in earning class-action status.•

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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