The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would set ATM surcharge fees under a new U.S. Senate amendment Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has introduced that would replace an earlier version designed to cap the fees at 50 cents per transaction.

At deadline, it was uncertain whether the Senate would approve the amendment to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.

Senate amendment 4085 to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act would require ATM surcharge fees to “bear a reasonable relation to the cost of processing the transaction.” Rules governing ATM fees would become effective six months after the bill’s enactment, and the bureau would issue rules regulating ATM fees, according to the legislation.

Harkin’s staff did not return calls for comment, but the senator said during a May 4 news conference when he introduced the surcharge-cap amendment “our mission in financial reform is to level the playing field for the average Joe. My amendment goes to the heart of that mission, ensuring consumers are not longer victimized by unfair fees.”

ATM surcharge fees range from $2 to $3, with some as high as $5 on cruise ships and casinos, according to industry sources.

The ATM industry opposes both amendments, and industry officials do not consider Harkin’s decision to drop the 50-cent cap on ATM surcharges much of a compromise.

“There should be no negotiating,” Jim Cabe, president of the National Association of ATM ISOs and Operators, a trade group of ATM ISOs, said in a statement. “Any surcharge-fee cap is a very bad thing for our industry and for American consumers. We must keep the pressure on the senators to vote no to SA4085.”

Kurt Helwig, president and CEO of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, said Harkin’s new amendment does not mitigate his concerns about the legislation. “We don’t want government regulating [prices] in our market,” Helwig tells PaymentsSource.


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