Editorial: Banks get the message
Score one for the little guy — and gal. Confronting a tsunami of revolt among its customers, Bank of America announced Tuesday it would ditch its plan to impose a $5 debit card fee on most accounts beginning early next year. “Our customers’ voices are most important to us,” a BofA spokesman said in explaining the capitulation.
Warms your heart to know big banks care so much about you, the consumer, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the only thing surprising here is how long it took Bank of America and others to realize the proposed debit-card fees had ignited a consumer backlash of epic proportions, fueled in part by social media’s power to solidify and amplify individual voices. By the time BofA dropped the fee plan, more than 300,000 people had voiced their displeasure through the website Change.org. That doesn’t include complaints made through other avenues such as phone calls, emails, letters or face-to-face objections delivered at branch offices. Customers weren’t simply grumbling, however; they were voting with their feet and abandoning Bank of America in favor of smaller local or regional institutions and credit unions.
For BofA, the retrenchment became inevitable when other banks, including J.P. Morgan, SunTrust and Wells Fargo, said they were ending “trial” programs that imposed debit-card fees. If these fee proposals were a trial, the verdict was swift and sure. For people already incensed over the subprime mortgage meltdown, robo-signing of loan documents, billion-dollar bailouts and Midas-worthy executive compensation, the debit-card fees were simply the last straw. Just as government pays attention when a group of energized citizens unites around a common cause, big business does, too — and you can bank on that.