New Consumerism Stalks Industry; Banking Issues Seen as Top Concern of Public Interest Groups
Gross, Laura, American Banker
It shouldn't surpise anyone that a new consumerism is ballooning in response to changes in bank products, policies, and fees.
After all, deregulation of any industry that is highly visible and has widespread patronage is bound to generate consumer concern. (And commercial banking is nothing if not highly visible and widely patronized.)
The only surprise will come if the consumerist balloon bursts before advocacy groups have made an indelible mark on further legislative and regulatory developments.
The Consumer Federation of America, for example, "has no higher priority than banking issues in the coming year," according to Stephen J. Brobeck, executive director.
Also, the entire public interest movement is shifting its legislative resources into the banking area, one source revealed. This movement is represented on a local and national level by "public interest research groups" or "pirgs," as they are colloquially known.
The Consumer Federation, Mr. Brobeck asserts, intends to take positions on the whole array of banking issues that will face the next Congress and "vigorously advocate those positions."
Among the issues are limits on the time banks may hold checks before allowing consumers access to funds, truth-in-savings, disclosure of bank fees, possible limit on bank fees, and lifeline financial services, which are those provided at cost or below cost to individuals who cannot afford the going rate.
A few states have already passed or are considering legislation in regard to some of these issues, several of which were discussed during the last session of Congress. The Yankelovich Study
Further evidence of the arrival of a new consumerism is found in the results of Yankelovich, Skelly and White's new report on "Financial Services Policy in the 1980s," the result of in-depth interviews with 150 of the nation's leading public opinion makers. Yankelovich is one of the world's largest and most diversified marketing and social research companies.
The research found that "consumerism is the next area of regulatory concern," according to William A. Wilson 3d, vice president in Yankelovich's policy planning group, which authored the survey.
"Consumer issues -- while not top-of-mind for leaders -- are an area of concern," explains Mr. Wilson. Among the opinion leaders who participated in one-to-two-hour personal interviews were congressmen, federal regulators, state regulators and legislators, news media editors, corporate executives, and public interest activists.
Interestingly, Mr. …