Sen. Robert Byrd, D-Va., once famously said, "Congress is not an ATM." In a way, that's too bad, because if it were, members of the National ATM Council delegation that visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday might've been able to fix it.
NAC coordinated and sponsored the trip for the group, which included IADs and other industry independents. The 10 delegates tackled the Hill with one major objective — to get fee placard legislation moving again — and two only slightly lesser ones — to express concerns about an ATM fee study being conducted by the Government Accounting Office, and to offer a clearer view of the non-FI side of the industry.
Job 1 — legislation
A bill seeking to eliminate the physical fee placard had seemed set for easy passage, given a score of sponsors and bipartisan agreement that it was the Right Thing To Do. None of this has changed, but the bill has.
Rolled in with fee placard legislation was a completely unrelated measure concerning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which was bitterly opposed by Tea Party Republican Jim DeMint. To make his point about Dodd-Frank, DeMint put a hold on the combined bill just before the Senate adjourned for summer recess.
And this is where matters stand today, said Bruce Renard, executive director of NAC. But after a series of meetings on Tuesday with staffers of Senators on the Banking Committee, the delegation was reassured that fee placard reform will pass. Someday.
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"I think there is a sense that [the Senate] will try to handle this in the lame duck session — meaning after the election in November, but before the Congress adjourns for the year," he said. "So, I think we have a good chance of getting it handled in that time frame."
Job 2 — representation
The NAC delegation also outlined concerns about the GAO study. Specifically, the fact that three-quarters of study participants are FIs, who own and operate less than half of the nation's ATMs, and who the business very differently from independents.
"[W]e're concerned about the GAO study potentially being used to support another run at capping ATM fees," said Renard. "And I think we got them to understand that that's not something that's in the public interest, that there's no imperative out there on the part of consumers to do that. In fact each office we visited with confirmed that they get virtually no consumer complaints about ATM fees. And that was very encouraging."
Job 3 — education
Finally, the delegation provided Senators' staffers a clear picture of the ATM Industry and the associations that represent it, including NAC, the ATM Industry Association, and the ATM Industry Coalition, comprised of members who have a role or interest in ensuring the continued health of the industry.
Members of the NAC delegation said they were pleased with the outcome of Tuesday's meetings. Gerri Cerniglia, who owns and operates Edge One Inc., a Madison, Wis.-based IAD, said that her first visit to the Hill left her pleasantly surprised at how ready people were to listen, learn and address concerns. "I think it was clarified that we aren't necessarily part of the banking business, but that the partnership they rely on from us, and we [from] them, is becoming even more critical," she said. "And so we all need to be able to play nice in the same sandbox and observe the rules and regs collectively, so that one doesn't penalize the other."
Josh Hendon, vice president of operations at Kahuna ATM Solutions said he came away impressed with the importance of educating lawmakers about the ATM industry how IADs use the surcharge fees they collect. "Those terminal owners have to pay for the machine, they have to put money in the machine, they have to service the machine when it breaks down, they have to make the machine [compliant with regulations] ... and that's a big part of where that $2 surcharge is going. And I don't think the lawmakers realize that, so it was good to educate them about that."
Bonnie Dalrymple, vice president of business development at EFX Financial Services of Clearwater, Fla., said she was impressed with help offered by a staffer for Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. "She was very knowledgeable of the whole situation … gave us some really good insight and some great suggestions. She named some people that we should go see. She suggested that we write a letter to the banking committee about the GAO study and tell them our concerns."
Pam Philipps, vice president of affiliate development at Kahuna ATM Solutions said she felt that people on the Hill were interested in understanding the industry. "[They were] very encouraging for us to stay in touch, to communicate issues and ideas, to come to the table with resolutions." One realization that came out of the last meeting was that legislators wanted the industry to bring its own ideas to the conversation, she said. "And we have ideas."
For more on this topic, visit the distributor/ISO/IAD research center.
photo: Arend Vermazeren