Bank of America clarifies checking disclosures

PNC Bank not planning changes

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Bank of America, the nation's No. 2 bank, became the latest among the country's biggest banks last week to bow to public pressure by simplifying consumer disclosures about fees on its checking accounts.

Pew Charitable Trusts has been leading the call for more than a year for banks and credit unions to adopt a standard, one-page disclosure box that outlines key checking account terms so consumers can more easily comparison shop for an account and avoid being blindsided by fees.

Pew launched the push after its research found that most banks did not provide customers with key information on policies and fees in a concise, easy-to-understand format. The study by the Philadelphia-based research nonprofit found the median length of checking account disclosures was 111 pages.

So far, PNC Bank, the biggest bank in Pittsburgh and No. 8 nationwide, is sticking with its current disclosures, a spokesman said Tuesday.

"We believe our disclosures are clear," Fred Solomon said. "PNC's disclosures are not that long," he said, adding that he wouldn't "speculate" about any possible changes to come.

Pittsburgh-based PNC is the only bank among the nation's top 12 that has a major presence in this region.

Counting Bank of America, five of the 12 biggest banks in the country have voluntarily adopted a simplified checking account disclosure form similar to a model developed by Pew. They include No. 1 JP Morgan Chase, No. 3 Citigroup, TD Bank and Capital One.

"Most financial institutions do not summarize key information in a simple, user-friendly way, making it cumbersome for consumers to find important policies and fees," Pew said.

The group has been urging the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to require a standard disclosure box for checking accounts, similar to the nutritional label for food.

"If you're on a low-sodium diet, you can pick a can with the lowest sodium," Susan Weinstock, director of Pew's Safe Checking in the Electronic Age project, has said. "You could pick a checking account in the same manner."

To see Pew's suggested disclosure box, visit www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=85899359190.

businessnews

Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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