With the summer Movie blackbuster season well under way, possibly the top movie of the summer will be released this week detailing some of the life of John Dillinger, played by possibly the best actor of his age group, Johnny Depp.
In the 1930 Depression era, bank robbers and gangters became pop culture heroes – John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bonnie & Clyde, and probably the most deadly gang – that of “Ma” Barker’s boys and Alvin Karpis.
Whereas once it was criminals robbing banks – it’s now the banks robbing the public. And like the criminals of the 1930’s – it’s time for the Feds to step in –
Consumers being weighted down by overdraft fees may soon have relief in the form of H.R. 1456, The Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act.
Introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the bill would provide consumers with protection against unfair banking practices that are designed to maximize the number of overdraft charges and gouge consumers.
Overdrafting has turned into a multi-billion dollar enterprise for the baking sector, oftentimes by means that are unethical at best. According to The Center for Responsible Lending, overdraft charges generated $17.5 billion for banks in 2007, up 70 percent in 2004 when banks generated $10.3 billion.
Banks have achieved this amazing growth in overdraft charges by automatically enrolling consumers without their knowledge, juggling transactions to increase the frequency of overdrafts and not providing any warning to customers that an account is near being overdrafted. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 75 percent of banking customers are automatically enrolled in overdraft protection programs.
“When overdraft fees are $30 or more, a $5 treat at Starbucks becomes a $35 shock after the overdraft fee is applied. And when multiple purchases in a day are posted in a sequence that only benefits the bank—incurring multiple fees—then something is broken in the system and must be fixed,” Maloney said in a press release.
When that occurs, what the banks do amounts to a loan – with an astronomical interest rate. Typically, a $100 overdraft that takes two weeks to pay back would result in a 900 percent APR.
The Maloney bill would seek to curtail the banks’ ability to unknowingly charge consumers such high fees.
First, the bill would require customer consent before banks can provide overdraft protection and would put overdraft loans under the oversight of the Truth in Lending Act. Second, the bill would prevent banks from juggling the order of transactions to increase the frequency of overdrafts and therefore maximize the amount of fees gained. Finally, the bill would require banks to inform customers that a transaction could trigger an overdraft and would provide customers with an opportunity to cancel the transaction.
“Consumers simply shouldn’t be enrolled in overdraft programs without their consent,” Maloney said. “Since Congress just required an affirmative opt-in to over-the-limit fees in my credit card reform law, regulations should similarly require an opt-in to overdraft fees. Whenever banks step over the line of reasonable business practices into abuse of consumers’ trust and understanding, government needs to act.”
You know it’s bad when the banks have become the criminals.