DOJ re­sponds to Welch re­quest

Stanstead Journal - - STANSTEAD JORURNAL - Burling­ton, VT

Fol­low­ing a re­quest last month by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT.), the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice has in­di­cated it is re­view­ing state­ments and ac­tions by big banks re­gard­ing consumer debit card fees.

“I am pleased that the Jus­tice Depart­ment is tak­ing this re­quest se­ri­ously,” Con­gress­man Welch said. “While big banks like Bank of Amer­ica beat a hasty re­treat on their debit card fee strate­gies, I have no doubt that they will con­tinue their quest to dig deeper into the pock­ets of strug­gling con­sumers. As they con­sider their next move, they should be aware that there is a cop ac­tively on the beat.”

In a let­ter to Con­gress­man Welch, As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ron­ald Weich said, “The Depart­ment of Jus­tice is re­view­ing the state­ments and ac­tions by banks and their trade as­so­ci­a­tions re­gard­ing pos­si­ble in­creases in consumer fees for us­ing debit cards. Please be as­sured that if it finds that in­di­vid­u­als, banks, or other par­ties may have vi­o­lated an­titrust laws, the Depart­ment will take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.”

As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Weich also noted that “the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has a strong in­ter­est in en­sur­ing vig­or­ous com­pe­ti­tion among banks in the debit card ser­vices they pro­vide to con­sumers, and in re­cent years, it has vig­or­ously pur­sued both crim­i­nal and civil cases in the in­dus­try.”

Con­gress­man Welch led op­po­si­tion in the House to the debit card fees an­nounced by Bank of Amer­ica and oth­ers big banks ear­lier this year. In an Oc­to­ber let­ter to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder, Con­gress­man Welch raised con­cerns over whether big banks had co­or­di­nated their debit card fee strate­gies in vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral an­titrust laws.

Bank of Amer­ica and other big banks shelved their plans to charge cus­tomers fees to use their debit cards fol­low­ing wide­spread consumer out­rage and pres­sure from Congress. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to press re­ports, many banks have qui­etly moved to in­crease other fees such as those for re­plac­ing a debit card, wiring money or main­tain­ing a check­ing ac­count.

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