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PIRG Press:  Visa Announces Limited Debit Card Liability

CONTACT: Liz Hitchcock or Ed Mierzwinski, 202-546-9707

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Aug 13, 1997

STATEMENT OF PIRG RESPONDING TO VISA ANNOUNCEMENT LIMITING ATM DEBIT CARD LIABILITY

Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director, U.S. PIRG

 "It's a good first step to voluntarily reduce liability, but it should be the law. Consumers should not face the risk of losing all the money in their checking accounts, simply because their bank replaced their safe, secret code based ATM card with an unsecure card that allows a thief to drain their checking account, armed with nothing more than a restaurant receipt. Consumers can find out whether their checking account can be accessed "off line" or without a secret code (PIN) by looking for a Visa or Mastercard logo on their ATM card.

 Under current federal law, a consumer's liability for ATM (debit) card fraud is $50 if he or she notifies the bank within 2 days, but up to $500 after that, or even all the money stolen, under certain circumstances. On July 30th, Mastercard announced that its issuing banks would voluntarily limit debit card liability to $50, the same as credit card liability under federal law, effective January 1, 1997. One of the largest Visa issuers, Bank of America, then announced it would limit liability to $0. Today, Visa announced it would limit liability to $0 for the first 2 days and $50 after that, effective in November.

 When the credit bureau TRW offered free credit reports voluntarily in 1993, they were praised, but then in 1997, despite continued credit report errors, they took away the free credit reports. That's why debit card liability must be limited by law. Other changes PIRG endorses are the following:
 
 

  • Reinvestigation timetables under the law must be toughened, banks should be required to issue provisional refunds quickly and banks should be required to make consumers whole after fraud occurs by restoring credit reports, sending apology letters to creditors, etc.
     
  • Banks should be required to give consumers a clear choice between PIN only and off line cards and consumers should be allowed to return unsolicited off line cards to receive PIN only cards without hassle.

Your money should be safer in the bank than under your mattress, that's why these changes should be the law."
 


EDITORS: Consumers can receive a debit card fact sheet. (1) Automatically by sending e mail with the subject "debit" to "watchdog@pirg.org," (2) Downloading it from the Internet at "www.pirg.org" or (3) by sending a SASE to PIRG DEBIT CARD, 218 D St SE, Washington, DC 20003.
 
 

   


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