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?
Customers 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.
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
With 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.
Personal Service Businesses
ATM 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
The 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.