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TheStreet Open House

Obama and Durbin Should Back Off the Banks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's time for the politicians to back off from their drive-by bank bashing and let the free market operate.

Recent statements by President Obama and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) following Bank of America's (BAC) decision to begin charging a $5 monthly fee to customers who use their debit cards for purchases, have gotten out of hand.

Senator Dick Durbin

Senator Durbin's statement on the Senate floor that Bank of America's customers should "vote with your feet, get the heck out of that bank," is a reckless statement for someone in his position. It's one thing to introduce or support legislation designed to protect consumers from confusing and expensive fees, but quite another to single out one company that is charging a fully disclosed fee to provide a service.

Maybe the Senator's problem is with capitalism itself.

President Obama was more reasonable and measured in his negative response to Bank of America's plan for the fees:

In an ABC interview on Monday, the president said the banks "don't have some inherent right just to, you know, get a certain amount of profit, if your customers are being mistreated."

But are they being mistreated? Bank of America's coming $5 monthly service charge for customers using their debit cards to make purchases (they won't be charged for making cash withdrawals at Bank of America ATMs) is not some tricky "hidden fee." The fee has been fully disclosed, in advance, and is easy to avoid.

Even the president admits that the market may solve the "problem," of the new fee hoping that many banks will determine that "this is actually not good business practice."

The banks have only themselves to blame for the legislation that led to curbs on practices leading to excessive fees.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 or CARD Act, put an end to several abusive practices leading to some exorbitant fees, including "universal default," double-cycle billing, mailing bills only two weeks before payment was due, playing games and causing additional late fees by positing received payments the following day, etc. This was good, since the lenders were being tricky.

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