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State Lawmaker Tries to Ban Debit Card Fees

3:55 PM, Oct 18, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A lot of bank customers are steaming mad over their banks' plans to start charging monthly fees for using debit cards.

Rep. Jeff Clemens appreciates their anger.

Clemens has filed a bill that would ban banks from charging those fees. Several national banks are planning to start charging a $5 monthly fee for customers who use their debit cards.

Clemens argues that's just not right, especially after many of these banks were bailed out by taxpayers during the banking crisis. He says customers are disgusted with greedy banks that make billions in profits and sometimes don't even pay any taxes.

"I believe Florida consumers are angry. They're disgusted with these practices. The fact that these banks have taken our taxpayer dollars in order to prop themselves up and now are turning around and wanting to stick these fees to the average consumer is unconscionable and I think we need to do something about it."

Clemens said Bank of America and Wells Fargo are among the first banks to announce the debit card fees. He says Bank of America has not paid any federal income tax for the past two years, while Wells Fargo posted a $3.8 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011.

"The purpose is really to say to the banks look, 'This is something that you sold to us as a free service, that we were going to be able to access our money from wherever, and you've told us for the past 10 to 15 years that you weren't going to charge for this service and we should move to a cashless society.' Now that their profits have gone from being obscenely huge to just huge they want to be able to come back to us and say to us now we're going to charge you for this free service."

There's a question whether the state of Florida could regulate national banks, which are usually under the purview of federal regulators. But Clemens says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gives states some latitude over regulating national banks.

"It's been a long held belief that states can't regulate federal banks but there was a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said New York absolutely had a right to enforce its state's laws on federally regulated banks and so I'm relying on that decision to say that Florida has the ability to do this if we really want to. The Supreme Court has said so."

Clemens has also started a Facebook page called G.R.E.E.D., which stands for Get Rid of Excessive Expenses for Debitcards. He hopes the page becomes a rallying point for frustrated bank customers.

First Coast News

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