Magazine article American Banker

New Hampshire a Battleground in ATM Fee Fight

Magazine article American Banker

New Hampshire a Battleground in ATM Fee Fight

Article excerpt

Some New Hampshire legislators want the state motto-"Live Free or Die"- to apply to automated teller machines.

Three bills have been introduced in the state General Court to minimize or ban ATM surcharges.

Prospects for passage are dubious, but industry experts see the debate as symbolic of states' efforts to deal with the issue before federal legislation is forced on them.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Alfonse D'Amato of New York, has vowed to make his proposal to ban ATM surcharges a top priority this year.

Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Tennessee are among the states with ATM bills in their legislative hoppers, and regulators in Iowa and Connecticut have used interpretations of existing law to ban surcharging.

The prospect of a patchwork of conflicting laws concerns ATM industry leaders. Stan Paur, president and chief executive officer of Pulse EFT Association in Houston, said the industry may have only just begun battling to retain the right to surcharge.

Mr. Paur, who has testified before Congress on behalf of surcharge proponents, said the "ongoing threat of federal legislation" is causing jitters among ATM owners and deployers. At the same time, many states are drafting their own statutes, responding to the rising tide of outrage from consumers.

"Once this genie gets out of the bottle," he said, "it's going to be difficult to get it back in."

In New Hampshire, a variety of political forces affect the three bills, which were the subject of hearings in January.

One force is the state's strong libertarian streak and resistance to taxes. (New Hampshire does not tax people's income.) Another is that the state is heavily Republican and supportive of new businesses to keep its economy thriving.

"We try to be much more laissez-faire in terms of regulating banks because we want to attract more banks into the state," said state Rep. …

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