Bank cop says jury still out on overdraft fees
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top bank regulator said on Wednesday that the "jury's still out" about whether consumers want controversial overdraft protection that can charge them large fees for accidentally overdrawing their accounts.
Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan said he thought some institutions' recent moves to end overdraft fees was a "thoughtful thing," but questioned whether some consumers might want the protection.
Earlier this month, Bank of America (BAC.N) said it would no longer charge overdraft fees on debit card purchases as of this summer, a decision that may cost millions of dollars.
"The jury's still out about whether some consumers want overdraft protection," Dugan told reporters on the sidelines of an American Bankers Association conference. "Where we'll find out the issue is whether when people go to buy things and get denied at the point of purchase, whether that creates a backlash."
He said the OCC was reviewing overdraft protection practices at U.S. banks. The agency is not eyeing specific action, he said.
The Federal Reserve in November moved to ban overdraft fees on automated-teller-machine and debit-card transactions unless consumers have actively selected an overdraft protection service. Those rules take effect July 1.
Some lawmakers, such as Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, have pushed for more extensive safeguards in legislation, including limiting the amount of overdraft fees that can be charged in a single month.
Consumer advocate groups have complained that bank customers can get hit with multiple $35 charges because they accidentally overdrew the account with small purchases such as a cup of coffee.
They have argued that banks should not automatically give consumers the protection that comes with hefty fees.
(Reporting by Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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