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Retirees File Wave Of Lawsuits Over ATM Fees

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DETROIT (AP) – Two Michigan retirees have filed a wave of federal lawsuits challenging the ATM fees that banks charge to non-customers.

The lawsuits from Nancy Kinder and Ray Harrison of Fowlerville claim banks are failing to post notices outside ATMs alerting users about the possible fees as required by a 10-year-old federal law. Just this week, they filed five in one day, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.

Court records show Kinder and Harrison travel the state by car, looking for ATMs that don’t have a notification signs, and photograph the ATMs. They have sued 36 banks in two years. ATM fee lawsuits by others have been filed in other states as well, the newspaper said.

“This law is absolutely clear and has been on the books for 10 years,” said attorney Geoffrey Bestor, who is representing the Fowlerville couple. “Nancy Kinder and Ray Harrison are a retired couple who feel strongly that banks ought to follow the law.”

Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management policy for the American Banking Association, said the group views such lawsuits as “frivolous.”

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act says banks must display the fee on the screen of the ATM and in a visible spot outside the ATM. In many cases, banks charge $2 to $3 for non-customers to withdraw money. In Michigan, more than 30 lawsuits over fees are pending in federal court.

Bestor said his clients get $1,000 or $2,000 per successful case. He said they have donated money from ATM suits to charity.

Ken Otsuka, a risk management analyst who tracks ATM litigation and advises credit unions on how to avoid liability, said those suing over ATM fees are taking things too far. He issued an alert to credit unions after seeing an increase in such lawsuits in recent months.

“There are some ATM-chasing lawyers out there that seem to be sitting out at ATMs that are not in compliance,” said Otsuka, of CUNA Mutual Group. “It’s easy money for them.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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