Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank all of you for being here, and particularly to apologize--even though we couldn't do anything about it--for the rather disjointed nature of the hearings. In fact we weren't even quite sure whether we'd get to the hearings before the vote and all those good things.
Today we're studying, according to the motion before the committee, electronic transfers, automatic banking machines, and especially choice and competition for consumers, which I think most of us feel is a good thing.
When we talk about regulating banking fees or regulating ATM fees or even regulating where banks have to offer services, there is quite often what's called the law of unintended consequences. It looks as if you're helping somebody, but really the equal and opposite reaction can actually be to constrict the service, to bump up fees in other areas. By trying to do good here, you can actually cause harm in a number of other areas.
That's really what I want to focus on. For example, let's suppose that we forced the banks to reduce ABM fees. Then let's suppose the banks say, “Well, if there's not much profit in it for us, why should we put up machines and maintain them and make this all available?”, thereby handing the market over to the white label machines that actually charge more fees than the banks. There are a lot of these scenarios that bother me. I don't think any of us would disagree that we want to help people who have trouble accessing bank services, etc. But by trying to do that, are we actually driving the paradigm in other ways that are not as desirable as we had first thought?
I would like to have some commentary on that, because I think a responsible committee will want to look at what I call those unintended consequences. Do the witnesses here see that as an issue?
I'll start with Mr. O'Connell and then Mr. Cran as well.