Federal Court Ruling on Placement of ATM Fee Notice Favors Consumers

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On July 25, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota granted summary judgment to a consumer alleging that the placement of an ATM fee notice on the inside of a “hooded ATM” was not “prominent and conspicuous” as required under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA). Brown v. Wells Fargo & Co., No. 11-1362 2012 WL 3030294 (D. Minn. Jul. 25, 2012). The consumer, on behalf of a putative class, alleged that the ATM fee disclosure was placed on the inside of the hood protecting the screen, and not in a more conspicuous position. The consumer did not contest that the disclosure was provided electronically on the screen, as also required by the EFTA, and that he was aware before completing the transaction that he would be charged a fee. Because the EFTA does not define “prominent and conspicuous,” the court looked to other consumer protection statutes to determine that the disclosure must be displayed such that a reasonable person ought to have noticed. In this case, the court held that a reasonable person would not conclude that the notice was prominent and conspicuous because (i) the disclaimer was not in capital letters, (ii) the type and background of the notice were in a coordinating, not contrasting color, (iii) the notice was placed inside the hood as opposed to on top of the machine, and (iv) the notice generally did not stand out relative to other information on or near the ATM. While the court granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment on the EFTA claims, the court disposed of his claim for unjust enrichment, and refused to certify the class, holding that the consumer failed to meet the requirements of either Rule 23(a) or (b). As we have reported in recent weeks, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would eliminate the physical fee disclosure requirement, and instead require that ATM operators only provide an on-screen notice.