Casey to CFPB: End Hidden Checking Fees By Making Banks Issue One-Page Disclosure of Costs

Banks Are Required to Disclose Checking Account Fees to Consumers But Disclosure Forms Are Long and Complicated- Leaving Consumers in the Dark

Median Length of Bank Fee Disclosure Form is 69 Pages- Senator says It Should be One

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect consumers from hidden fees on their checking accounts by requiring banks to disclose fees in a simplified, one page document.

Currently, banks are required to disclose checking account terms and fees to consumers, but disclosure forms are often long and complicated leaving consumers unable to determine what they’re being charged. A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that the median length of a checking account disclosure form is 69 pages.

In effect, consumers are often hit with fees without knowing they’re coming. 95 percent of Pennsylvania households have bank accounts.

“Pennsylvanians have a right to know in a clear and understandable way what fees they’re being charged by their banks, and implementing a simplified one page disclosure would do just that,” Senator Casey said.  “Consumers across Pennsylvania are still struggling in this difficult economy, and the last thing they need is to be hit with hidden fees.”

Even though banks are required to disclose checking account fees, notice of the fees is often buried in a mound of paper, although one bank in Pennsylvania is already reversing the trend.

A copy of Pew’s Report can be found by clicking here.

Pennsylvania data is available by clicking here.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter to CFPB Director Cordray is below:

The Honorable Richard Cordray

Director

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Mr. Cordray:

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter regarding overdraft practices at our Nation’s banks.  I am pleased to hear that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is undertaking an extensive review of the effect of banking policies on consumers. 

As you mentioned in your letter, the Pew Charitable Trusts has done significant research in this area.  One notable finding from its June 2012 study is how difficult it is for consumers to understand banks’ terms and fees.  Terms are often presented in lengthy documents, which can be hard to understand.  The current presentation makes it difficult to compare accounts offered by competing institutions.  Pew’s examination of the terms and conditions for checking accounts at the 12 largest banks in the United States found that the median length of these disclosures is 69 pages.

Some banks, including several in Pennsylvania, are working to create a simplified disclosure to present consumers with important information in a less complicated format.  As you complete your review, I encourage the CFPB to work with financial institutions to develop a standardized disclosure that could be used by all United States’ depository institutions to communicate their terms and conditions to consumers.  Such a form would describe fees and policies for checking accounts in a concise, easy-to-understand fashion, allowing consumers to compare the policies offered by different banks.

Transparency is essential to ensuring that consumers have the information they need to make important financial decisions that affect themselves and their families.  I look forward to working with you to ensure that Americans can make informed decisions about checking accounts and other financial services.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator