Top banks accused of colluding on ATM fees 20 Oct 11

A pedestrian walks past a Bank of America banking branch in Charlotte, North Carolina October 13, 2011

(Reuters) – A New Jersey man sued Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo on Wednesday on behalf of ATM users, accusing the banks of colluding to fix the fees they charge customers to withdraw money.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., is the third such suit seeking class action status on the issue of automated teller machine fees in the past week.

The latest suit alleges the banks worked with Visa and MasterCard to set artificially high rates on ATM fees.

The earlier lawsuits were filed against Visa and MasterCard, Wednesday’s lawsuit is directed at both the card network firms and the banks.

Customers who use ATMs not operated by their bank are often charged both by the operating bank and by their own bank, as a “foreign ATM transaction” fee.

Successful ATM operators need access to the Visa and MasterCard networks, since the vast majority of debit cards are exclusive to them. Some cards can access alternate, cheaper networks.

The lawsuits accuse Visa and MasterCard of forcing ATM operators to charge the same access fee to customers regardless of which network they use, in order to get access to the Visa and MasterCard networks.

One of the other lawsuits was filed by a group representing the operators of ATMs.

Wednesday’s lawsuit accused the banks, that collect the access fees, of colluding with Visa and MasterCard in setting the transaction price.

A spokesman for JPMorgan declined comment. Representatives for Bank of America and Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Justin Genese v Visa, MasterCard and others, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 11-01838.