CRM Buyer quoted me in On-Premises Banks Stick It to Walmart Customers. It opens,
Walmart customers who use the banking services provided inside the chain’s stores are among the highest payers of fees — especially overdraft fees — in the U.S., a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal filings concluded.
The five banks with the most Walmart branches ranked among the top 10 U.S. banks in fee income as a percentage of deposits last year, the paper reported, compared to other U.S. banks that earn most of their income through lending.
It is a notable finding, especially given Walmart’s brand: First and foremost, the company has built a reputation for providing low-cost products at significant savings compared to other stores.
Walmart cannot be held completely responsible for the banks’ practices, of course. The financial sector is highly regulated, and no third-party retailer is in a position to set standards or make policies.
However, Walmart told the Journal that it has a thorough process for vetting banks to make sure they are in line with its philosophy.
Financial Reform? What Financial Reform?
Apart from the Walmart branding issue, the report highlights some other concerns. In spite of curbs on financial industry practices in the last few years, it still is possible for providers to levy high fees on consumers in the lowest economic brackets, making it more difficult for them to work their way out of debt. A new government agency, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, was established to curtail such activities. Why do they still occur?
The Wall Street Journal leads off its article with the story of a consumer who knowingly overdraws her checking account to pay for a needed car repair. The US$30 fee, which translated into an APR of more than 300 percent, was actually cheaper than a payday loan, the borrower said.
In the bank’s defense, there are certain financial, market, regulatory and business realities that cannot be ignored.
“While I am not going to defend high-cost fees for financial products, I would say that the lenders often have high fixed costs for each transaction that can work out to a higher percentage of the amount borrowed than they would be for larger transactions,” David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, told CRM Buyer.
“So, I would say that there is some gouging going on in this market, but also some basic business reality,” he remarked.