ATM fee disclosure rules and related litigation

Jenny Montgomery
April 25, 2012
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.