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Prieto, Schaer & Benson Bill to Prohibit Hidden Balance Inquiry Fees at ATMs Passes Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer and Assemblyman Daniel Benson sponsored to require ATM operators to disclose balance inquiry fee was recently approved in the Assembly, 74-0.

“As they struggle to make ends meet in a New Jersey job climate that remains less than ideal, residents of our state need defense against the deceitful banking practices that burden their already-tight budgets,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This legislation is simply about making sure that people have the information they need in order to make the best decisions about what to do with their hard-earned money.”

The bill (A-1252) would prohibit any state or federally chartered bank, savings bank, credit union or other entity that operates an ATM from charging a consumer for inquiring about an account balance unless the ATM screen prominently displays a notice disclosing the sum of the fee and giving consumers the option of canceling the inquiry to avoid paying the fee before completing the transaction.

“This is an issue of basic transparency that will allow consumers the ability to make an educated decision,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “While we cannot prevent the banks from charging balance inquiry fees, we certainly have a duty to ensure that consumers are aware of their existence.”

“When consumers check their balances, often it’s to avoid an overdraft, for which, of course, there is also fee. Unfortunately, ATM users often feel tricked and trapped by banks as they strive to manage their money the best they can,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill acknowledges that, at the very least, an individual has a right to real-time, clear-cut information about how he or she will be charged at the ATM.”

An ATM operator found to be in violation of the bill’s provisions would be subject to a penalty of at most $1,000 per day.

The measure was released by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on October 2. It cleared the Assembly on December 18.