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Ban banks' debit card fees? State Rep. Clemens says it can be done in Florida

Banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo would not be allowed to charge Florida customers for use of their debit cards under legislation filed Monday by Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.

His bill, HB 375, would make it unlawful "to charge or impose a dormancy fee, and inactivity fee or charge, or a service fee with respect to the use or holding of a debit card by a consumer."

His proposal comes amid outrage this month among Bank of America customers. The corporation announced it will charge customers who use debit cards for purchases a $5 monthly fee to offset implementation of certain regulations under the federal Dodd-Frank banking bill.

Other banks moving toward adding additional charges for debit cards include SunTrust, Regions Financial, Chase and Wells Fargo.

"They sold us on the idea that we were going to move to a cashless society," said Clemens, an energy performance contractor and former newspaper journalist.

If you're like us, your reaction to his proposal was probably something like, "Can he do that?"

Clemens says he can, citing a 2009 Supreme Court case, Cuomo v. Clearing House Association, that, as he reads it, affirmed states have a right to regulate commerce within their borders, even if institutions stretch beyond their lines.

"It's been a long-held belief that states don't have the right to regulate federal banking institutions," he said. "The Cuomo case and the Supreme Court say differently."

He said he thought of the idea a few months ago, back when a couple national banks announced their intentions to collect the monthly fees for debit card usage. It is not a result of the Occupy Wall Street movement, though "the overarching theme of large corporations taking advantage of average people is still there," he said.

Clemens is a former disgruntled Bank of America customer. He said he left the bank for "deceptive practices" in 2008 for PNC Bank, which has not yet sprung surprise charges.


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Jay Gould

Before we start railing against BofA's $5 fee or any other of the new fees that big banks have been introducing lately, we should consider what got us at this situation in the first place. All of these reviled fees are in response to the fall in revenues from debit card transactions that are the consequence of the passing of the Durbin Amendment and the Federal Reserve ruling to cap debit interchange at $0.22 + 0.05% of the transaction amount.

Everyone who was paying attention to what was happening knew that this was coming and warned against it. Here is what we wrote: http://blog.unibulmerchantservices.com/banks-may-limit-debit-card-transaction-size-to-fight-fee-limit

The point is that, if the government decides that a large portion of a business' revenues would be collected by someone else, the business will look for ways to make up for its losses and they would do it any way they can. Banks are certainly no different.

Jay Paul

So Rep. Clemens is the tireless crusader for consumers forced to pay a $5 bank fee? Lets double check his consumer crusader record, regarding the following fees consumers pay:
Outrageous monthly cell phone fees - SILENT
Outrageous cable TV bills - SILENT
Outrageous airline ticket fees - SILENT
Outrageous airline baggage fees – SILENT
Outrageous cost of a Gallon of Gas set by BIG Oil companies still subsidized by the federal government - SILENT
The total cost of these fees add up to $1,000’s in over charges for the average consumer on an annual basis, vs. the $70 dollar for debit fees if you are charged every month. Really, Mr. Clemens do you really think people are going to buy this ploy of yours, are you that cynical about your constituents intelligence?
Or will consumers see this as an obvious gimmick that you, Mr. Clemens, will use during your next campaign to hold himself up as a tireless champion of the consumer. It’s a fraud. You haven’t spent a moment to really understand what the average consumer is dealing with in your district.
So Mr. Consumer, stop belly aching about a $5 fee, and write to Mr. Clemens tell him you welcome his stauch position in support of consumers like you and tell him to start paying closer attention to how you are all getting fleeced by cell phone companies, cable companies, oil companies and of course the airlines, then let’s see if Mr. Clemens really does something that matters when it comes to your wallet.

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