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Democrats Want To Curb Banks' Overdraft Fees

ANNE FLAHERTY

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Senior congressional Democrats say legislation is still needed to limit how lenders charge customers who overspend on their accounts, even though some big banks have already curbed high-fee overdraft programs.

Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, on Friday joined Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., in calling for legislation that would require banks to ask customers whether they want overdraft protection.

"Don't do favors for people without asking them," said Frank, D-Mass., at a hearing on a House overdraft bill introduced by New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

Most banks automatically allow customers to overdraft their accounts, then charge them $25 to $35 per infraction. Banks say that customers want the protection, rather than being denied a purchase at the cash register.

In recent weeks, several major U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., have said that they will allow customers to "opt out" of their overdraft programs.

The House and Senate bills under consideration would go further by requiring that fees be proportional to the cost of the overcharge. The legislation also would prohibit banks from imposing more than one overdraft fee a month, or six per a year.

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