May 12, 2010

With 950,000 New York City Households Lacking Access To The Internet, Gillibrand Introduces Amendment To Wall Street Reform That Would Protect New York City Seniors, Families From New Bank Fees For Paper Statements

Banks Penalizing Customers Who Don’t Switch to Paperless, Electronic Banking

Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Senate moves forward on legislation to protect taxpayers and set new rules of the road for banks and lenders to keep our economy stable, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing an amendment that would make sure seniors and families that do not have adequate access to the Internet are protected from new fees banks are charging for paper statements. Increasingly more banks are punishing customers with new fees when they don’t switch to paperless, electronic billing, while approximately 2 million New York households do not have Internet access at home.

“Thousands of seniors and families in this area do not have adequate access to the Internet or thousands more are simply not comfortable reviewing their finances electronically,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These New Yorkers shouldn’t be punished for wanting to receive their bank statements in the mail. My legislation will make sure that financial institution cannot take advantage of seniors or struggling families by imposing more fees.”

Senator Gillibrand’s amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill would empower the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to crack down on banks that charge consumers fees for accessing paper statements.  These fees – which often amount to several dollars a month – are particularly harmful for seniors with limited computer literacy, New Yorkers in rural areas with limited internet access, or low-income individuals who lack internet access and are forced to pay to get copies of their financial information – or not get that information at all. 

Approximately 950,000 households in New York City do not have access to the Internet.

County

Estimated Households Without Internet Access

Bronx

147,596

Kings

275,665

New York

231,274

Queens

242,510

Richmond

52,272


Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would require the CFPB to review the fees banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions that are charging for paper statements and develop rules to provide consumers with access to paper statements without undue fees.  Additionally, it would address similar fees, like fees charged for individuals who pay with paper checks, rather than online, and would cover any entity that is covered by the CFPB, including banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and any other consumer financial institution.  

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Americans say they prefer to receive statements and bills in the mail, rather than through E-mail.  Only 13 percent prefer electronic delivery.  Similarly, two-thirds say they prefer to pay their bills with a paper check, rather than pay electronically.  Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would help preserve consumers’ ability to receive bills and statements in the way that works best for them, and not get charged an additional fee for it.