Bloomberg News

Florida Lawmaker Seeks to Stop Bank Fees for Debit-Card Use

October 17, 2011

(Adds industry spokeswoman’s comment in fifth paragraph.)

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A Florida lawmaker is pressing to prevent banks from charging customers when they use debit cards at retailers, less than three weeks after Bank of America Corp. announced plans for a $5 monthly fee.

A bill offered today by state Representative Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, would ban the practice in Florida.

“The banks sold us all on the idea of a cashless society, and now that we’ve bought into their promise of free, easy access to our own money, they want to charge us for it,” Clemens said today in a statement from Tallahassee, the capital. “Anyone with a sense of decency should be outraged.”

The bill responds to consumer anger after banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. began unveiling new charges for debit-card use, Clemens said. Bank of America, the biggest U.S. lender by assets, said last month that its levy would offset federal rules that cap “swipe fees,” which are the charges merchants pay each time a customer makes a purchase using a debit card.

The Florida bill would be “bad regulation on top of bad regulation,” said Trish Wexler, an Electronic Payments Coalition spokeswoman. The organization based in Washington represents banks and transaction networks.

“No business can be expected to lose money and continue to offer the product,” Wexler said in a telephone interview. Her group supports a repeal of the federal law capping swipe fees.

Anne Pace, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, didn’t comment on the Florida bill in an e-mail sent in response to an inquiry about the measure.

The prospect of higher costs for consumers as a result of the new banking rules led U.S. Representatives Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, and Bill Owens, a New York Democrat, to file a bill in Congress last week to repeal the swipe-fee controls.

--With assistance from Hugh Son in New York. Editors: Ted Bunker, Stephen Merelman

To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Baribeau in Miami at sbaribeau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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