ATMIA encourages legislators to rein in Operation Choke Point

Operation Choke Point and its destructive effects on the ATM industry topped the agenda last week as ATM Industry Association leaders met with U.S. legislators and staff members in Washington, D.C.

Representing ATMIA were ATMIA Executive Director David Tente, and ATMIA Executive Board Member Kurt Helwig, who also is president and CEO of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association.

Tente and Helwig discussed issues surrounding “Operation Choke Point” with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., author of the Financial Institutions Customer Protections Act (H.R. 766), which passed later in the day by 250 to 169, on a largely party-line vote.

H.R. 766 seeks to eliminate the use of “Operation Choke Point” to deny access by legitimate businesses to the nation’s banking and payment systems.

Although intended as a tool to fight money laundering and other criminal activities, the legislation has been used to shut down ATM operators and other cash intensive-businesses.

“The ATM industry greatly appreciates Rep. Luetkemeyer’s efforts in this matter,” Tente said in a press release. “Most legislators don’t understand that ATMs are not a very efficient or effective tool for laundering money. Yet, we see ATM operators losing 20-year-old banking relationships due to threats of additional audits and crushing oversight from regulators.”

In speaking with lawmakers ATMIA also expressed concern over comments by legislators and presidential candidates calling for increased regulation of ATM fees.

According to the release, the national average for convenience fees charged by nonbank operators is already less than for fees assessed by banks — suggesting that market forces are working well in the independent marketplace.

ATMIA is also currently monitoring legislative calls that would require ATMs to display notices for overdraft, out-of-network, and other bank fees, regardless of whether the terminal is operated by a bank of an IAD.

This disregards the fact that providing this information would require major system changes and raise privacy issues. Moreover, the release said, banks often don’t know at the moment of the transaction what other fees might be assessed — for instance, charges for exceeding an allowed number of free monthly transactions.

ATMIA makes its position papers on regulatory issues available to the general public. Association members also have access to federal and state legislative monitoring updates.

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