ATM Fee Disclosure Reform

In a world of conveniences that make daily necessities much better, access to ATM machines are probably at the top of many lists. ATM machines are certainly a welcomed convenience for customers, especially when they’re pressed to get cash in a hurry and they’re looking for the nearest ATM machine(s). As ATM owners, providing such a welcomed service in prime locations can also be quite lucrative and provide a steady flow of customer traffic. It’s a win-win situation for both the customer and the ATM machine owner, that is, until there are miscommunications or underhanded things done that adversely affect ATM owners. While they are a great idea and convenience to have, what’s not so great is when situations arise where customers sue machine owners because of this wonderful convenience.

Are There Fees?

Are There FeesCustomers generally understand that when they use an ATM machine at a bank or a location other than their main banking facility, they can expect to pay a small to moderate user fee for the service. The fee amount can vary from one facility to the other, but there will invariably be a fee incurred by the user. There is rarely, if ever, no machine user fee, so the notion of “no fee” is really not expected.

Surprise Lawsuits?

Another thing that’s not expected is the litany of lawsuits that ATM owners have had to deal with for supposedly not disclosing their ATM machine fees to customers. Several lawsuits ranging in varying dollar amounts have stated that the usage fees were not displayed in plain sight and they were not knowledgeable of the fees before they made a transaction. Therefore, because the defendant (the ATM owners) are responsible for ensuring that the fees notifications are prominently displayed on the unit, the monetary lawsuits were awarded in favor of the plaintiffs. So why were the notices not in plain sight?

The New ATM Bill

This is where things get a little controversial. Notices can be placed with a sticker on the unit, notifying the customer of the fees. The problem is that the stickers were constantly being removed (weather conditions, theft, etc.) in some cases, making it appear that the owner wasn’t providing optimal customer service. This problem needed a solution. There had to be a better, more ideal way to apprise the customer of the fees. That answer was in the amendment of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, more specifically H.R. 4367. This amendment works to protect ATM owners and also to discourage those frivolous lawsuits that were beginning to drastically increase.

The newly reformed ATM Fee Disclosure bill now protects ATM owners as it eliminates the requirements that were originally set forth in the amendment that required ATM owners to have and display a physical sticker which notified customers of the ATM service fees.

ATM Changes for Owners

ATM Changes for OwnersWith the new bill in place, all that ATM owners would be required to do is to continue to apprise customers of the service usage fees, but they can now display that information digitally on the screen. Customers have the option to accept or deny any charges associated with the ATM machine when using it to access cash withdrawals. This new system also eliminates faulty problems that were occurring with the notification stickers and them “getting lost” so frequently. So whether the missing stickers were due to acts of nature or from malicious intent, ATM owners no longer have to worry about lawsuits resulting from not having fee information displayed on the machines.

ATM owners are glad and relieved to know this good news. The problem with the lawsuits was affecting the owners in a very negative way having to constantly defend their compliance with the notifications. With digital notices, customers can and are required to read and accept the full disclosure sentence regarding the fees, and they must do this before the ATM machine continues to transact their request. This means no more misunderstandings, miscommunications and best of all, no more lawsuits.

California Bill SB 1186

 Personal Service Businesses

Personal Service BusinessesATM businesses are service-oriented businesses designed to offer customers flexibility and convenience. You can find them almost anywhere from gas stations to ballparks. As long as there is enough traffic and a need for the service, an ATM business is likely to thrive most anywhere.

Customer-oriented businesses generally position themselves as entities that are interested in servicing the needs of their entire customer base. Providing quality service is an important component, whether that business is a service establishment or a product-focused business. They do this by trying to remain knowledgeable and sensitive to both current customer needs as they anticipate any future considerations that may arise.

Personal services businesses like ATM businesses are especially attuned to the changing needs of customers, and this is where customized or specialized services are often seen. Accommodating customers with special physical needs or challenging physical requirements is especially important for various industries, like those in financial services. Financial establishments like banks and ATM’s have come under scrutiny in several instances as not being as accommodating as expected towards their physically challenged customers. Cases have been cited where there were not enough easily accessible wheelchair ramps. There have also some situations cited where there were no ramps or accommodations given at all.

Although this is not the case with every single ATM business, the large majority of ATM banking facilities will try and make its services easily accessible for all customers. Also, there are some ATM businesses that have yet to comply with a mandate to make its facilities accommodating. Some legal entities have gotten involved in an effort to hasten the process, creating more of an abusive legal process.

ATM facilities are being sued for not having adequate or proper accommodations for physically challenged individuals. Lawsuits against ATM business owners began to grow and occur so frequently until ATM business owners began asking for some type of intervention on their behalf.

Financial institutions are often seen as easy targets for lawsuits for several reasons:

1. It’s perceived as having an abundance of cash assets or easily liquidated assets.

2. Accessible cash assets (can possibly) lead to a quick payout in a lawsuit.

3. Financial institutions often want negative issues (like lawsuits) to hurry up and go away, so the institution is always eager to settle.

None of these examples are the norm, nor are they the exception since each entity operates within its own operating standards. But because of often preconceived notions, abusive lawsuits against ATM business owners exist. To that end, a California legislative committee worked towards compiling a bill that would deter these (sometimes) frivolous lawsuits and give ATM business owners time, relief and flexibility.

California Bill SB 1186

Californian senateThe Californian senate, with a bipartisan vote, passed a bill called the SB 1186 which will curb those abusive lawsuits against ATM business owners. The suit will serve to ban demand money letters from attorneys of the ADA plaintiffs. This means that there is a ban against written communications coming from attorneys and sent to ATM owners that demands payments from the owner in return for a dropped legal suit from the ADA. This communication is seen as undue coercion and the bill strictly prohibits that.

Although the ADA still has the right to pursue a legal course, the SB 1186 bill states that the attorneys would have to send a notification letter to the business owner before proceeding with a lawsuit. Upon receipt of the letter, the ATM owner would have 30 days to correct any issues, after which the ADA could then proceed with their suit if the owner hasn’t made any changes.

This bill passing is good news, both for ATM owners and ATM customers. The bill protects ATM owners from frivolous lawsuits and impatient attorneys, but most importantly, it gives the business owner an opportunity to correct any issues that could be from a number of different issues, not just negligence.

The bill passing in California is a relief for ATM business owners from threatening lawsuits and any threats of forthcoming suits. Customers with disabilities may need the use of wheelchair ramps, Braille keypads or a lower reach to get to the machine’s controls without any difficulty. Now, with the 30-days grace period, business owners can ensure that the accommodations are sufficient.

New ATM Machine ADA Standards

New ATM Machine ADA Standards

A new law affecting ATM machines has passed under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and went into effect on March 15, 2012. The new ATM machine ADA standards required full compliance by the deadline date of March 15, 2012.

If you are an ATM Operator, an ATM company or a retail merchant operating one or many ATM machines, these new requirements will affect every active terminal in your ATM portfolio or retail location.

Today I’m going to tell what you need to know about these upcoming changes and how it will impact your business.

Starting on March 15, 2012 customers with disabilities should find using an ATM easier than ever before. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this new ADA requirement your ATMs must be in compliance by March 15th.

Some ATM machines may require that you make enhancements to the way your customers physically access and interact with your ATM machines. Some of the new design standards and requirements include:

Height and Reach:
The reach requirement will change from a height of 54″ to 48″ to the top working button. This will help to ensure customers can easily access the input controls of the ATM. The exception to this change is drive thru ATMs.

ATM Machine height is now 48 inches

Clear floor space:
The area in front of the machine needs to equal 48″ x 48″ (16 square feet).

ATM Machines needs 48 inches by 48 inches of clear floor space

Accessible route:
One unobstructed side of the clear floor space must adjoin an accessible route or another clear floor space leading up to the ATM and connecting to the clear floor space in front of the ATM. This is for wheel chair accessibility.

ATM ADA Accessible Route

Voice Guidance:
All ATMs must be speech enabled to service visually impaired customers. This may require a 3.5mm female jack be accessible for head phones.

ATM ADA Voice Guidance Standards

Display Screen:
Visibility from 40″ above the center of the floor in front of the ATM, characters on the screen must be in San Sarif font. A minimum of 3/16″ high and must contrast with their background.

Braille Instructions:

Braille Instructions to initiate the aforementioned voice guidance feature must also be provided.

ATM ADA Standards for Braille Instructions

Function Keys:
Function keys must be designed to contrast visually from their background surfaces.

Input device:
Input device controls must be tactically discernible, meaning the key surfaces must be raised above the surrounding surfaces.

Numeric Keypads:
Keypads must be arranged in an ascending or descending layout. The enter key should be marked with a raised circle, the clear key with a raised left arrow, and the cancel key should be marked with a raised X. The add value key should be marked with a raised plus sign and the decrease value key should be marked with a raised minus sign.

ATM ADA Standards for Numeric Keypad

If your location has multiple ATMs the most accessible ATM must meet these new 2012 ATM standards. However, the law requires the terminal inside a location and one outside the same location be considered two separate locations. In cases like these both must be compliant.

These laws will be applied to all lobby and walk up thru-the-wall ATMs. There will be no safe harbor granted for existing units and no grandfathering of currently deployed machines.. While there are many ATM operators and banks taking a “wait and see” attitude this could potentially be a costly proposition as any ATMs that don’t meet ADA standards by the 2012 deadline could result in a civil penalty of up to $55,000 for a first offense and double that amount for subsequent offenses.

ATMDepot suggests you take this opportunity to inventory your existing ATMs and record the manufacturer, model number, and year manufactured. It would also be wise to note each terminals software and speech capabilities.

If you need help, we suggest you check with your respective vendors for more details regarding upgradability and cost. ATMDepot is able to offer several upgrade kits and exceptional pricing on new replacement ATMs in cases where you need to upgrade or replace entire machines (generally older ATM models) in order to be compliant.

Be especially careful of used or previously refurbished ATM machines at this time as there are a lot of non-compliant machines on the market that cannot be setup. Make sure the ATM you plan to purchase, especially if it’s used or refurbished, is already completely upgraded or compliant with new ADA standards. All new machines shipped from ATM manufacturers today come fully ADA compliant.

You can find more information about the ADA standards for 2012 at ada.gov

You can find us at atmdepot.com or you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.

Visa & MasterCard ATM Interchange

Visa and MasterCard Interchange Rate Comic

Effective April 2010 MasterCard International announced they have lowered the Interchange for Cirrus ATM Transactions by $0.18.  Many ATM Companies must now pass this on to the owners or operators of the ATM in the form of a network fee.

The ATM Industry Association is conducting a study on the impact of the new fee structure.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Noah Wieder, Founder of ATM Depot an ATM Machine Processing Company, has been in the ATM Machines business since 1994 and was founder of the former XtraCash ATM. Jeremy Camhi, National Sales Manager, ATM Owner and resident in-house ATM Expert has been in the ATM Machines business since 1999. Follow us on Twitter

Don’t Steal Money from the ATM

Don’t Steal Money from the ATM

If you’re looking on the internet about how to steal money from ATM machines for illegal purposes please see these articles:

1. How to Steal an ATM with a car and a chain

2. How to Steal an ATM with a Tire Iron (Car Jack)

3. Is ATM Theft worth the time? Read more