Friday, February 16, 2007

Excessive withdrawal

For some obscure reason, the corporate press seems eager to lavish praise on Jim Flaherty on the issue of ATM fees. But the reality is that Flaherty has done nothing but indicate his refusal to take any real action.

From the Globe and Mail:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he is not satisfied with the explanation from Canada's big banks for why they charge a fee when other banks' customers use their automated teller machines -- and he has asked them to try harder...

Yesterday, Mr. Flaherty told a parliamentary finance committee that the banking association's initial reply wasn't adequate and he wanted a more "direct response."...

He said he expects a response "within a reasonable period of time, within a couple of weeks."
So, rather than taking the banks' response at face value and making a decision on that basis, Flaherty is simply looking to give them another platform to make a case for fees.

Which would be bad enough on its own. But then the National Post article includes this:
(T)he best consumers can hope for is that Mr. Flaherty's pressure will force the banks to roll back fees. That's because Ottawa does not regulate the day-today pricing of financial services products, a department spokesman said.

The Minister said as much yesterday, noting his goal in this process is to ensure "competition and choice" for Canadians.
In sum, Flaherty's action amounts to encouraging the banks to offer new excuses for continuing to charge ATM fees. Any failure to do so is then backed up by nothing more than the possibility that he'll make the same suggestion again if the next answer is no more plausible than the last one. And in the process, Flaherty makes an utterly unnecessary concession that any actual government action is off the table.

Somehow, the articles describe Flaherty as "populist-minded" and as placing "demands" on the banks based on his limp response. And unfortunately, as long as the press' commentary on Flaherty is based on even more pathetic pandering than Flaherty's toward the banks, there's little prospect of any interests besides those of the banks getting taken into consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment