Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bank overdraft fees - Will they be regulated?

I posted an earlier news article about SunTrust Bank being sued for their overdraft fees associated with the manner in which they process credits and debits in a customer's account. Although I initially posted the item because it's a situation a lot of bank customers have experienced, I hadn't looked too far into the matter.

Upon closer inspection, I see several banks have (or are) being sued under a similar complaint. Banks make large sums of money on a multitude of fees charged. In fact, in 2008, SunTrust Bank had income of over $1.7B in "Service charges, Card fees and other charges and fees." Due to huge provisions for loan losses, their net interest income was only $2.15B. They stated that their "transaction fee-related income....increased by $141.5M, or 8.9%....., driven by an increase in both consumer and business deposit account activity, primarily due to the growth in the number of accounts, higher non-sufficient fund rates, and an increase in the occurrence of non-sufficient fund fees."

Based on the level of consumer dissatisfaction and current regulatory environment, I wonder if this issue will make it past the courts and into Congress? The UK is already ahead of the situation, as the High Court has already taken up the issue of high overdraft fees. (See article "Court rules OFT can assess bank overdraft charges" http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_175465.

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