The debate over automatic teller machine fees will apparently continue after the Legislature adjourns in May, according to the state lawmaker who has fought to put a limit on ATM charges.
Senator Angela Monson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has decided to put her bill on hold temporarily to give lawmakers more time to gather facts on the subject. The Oklahoma City lawmaker hopes an interim study will answer some of the questions that have arisen during discussion of her legislation.
"We're not giving up. We just need to do more homework on the ATM business to make sure we're covering all of the bases on this issue. I don't want to pass a bill and then find out a few months later that we could have done better job if we had taken the time to gather a little bit more information," said Senator Monson.
SB 317 would have placed a cap on ATM fees, prohibiting machine operators and banks from charging consumers more than $1.00 per transaction. Senator Monson was successful in bringing the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, but during that process, it became clear that many more components were at play in the issue than it appeared on the surface.
"If there's one thing we learned it's that the ATM industry is a very large business with a variety of different components. We don't know everything we need to know to about it yet, but hopefully, the interim study will shed some light on the unanswered questions," said Senator Monson.
State lawmakers may also get some indirect help from the U.S. Congress. Federal legislators in Washington DC have also been taking a look at the ATM issue and their examination could provide useful information to Oklahoma lawmakers.
"We're going to try to pull in information from as many sources as possible. The more informed we are, the better the legislation we can draft," said Senator Monson.
The Oklahoma City legislator indicated her interim study would address more than just ATM fees. She also wants to consider greater public disclosure by ATM operators so consumers and policy makers would have a better idea of what an appropriate fee limit might be. Disclosure may include such things as ATM operating costs and the number of transactions at machine locations.
"One of the things that made it tough to get our arms around this issue was the fact that we didn't know much about these machines, their operators or the people they were serving. If we could get more detailed information about the way the business works, we would be in a better position to make sure consumers are being treated fairly," noted Senator Monson.