By the Division of Banks

DECISION ESTABLISHING CERTAIN MAXIMUM DISHONORED CHECK FEES AT MASSACHUSETTS STATE-CHARTERED INSTITUTIONS

FEBRUARY 25, 2010


This decision establishes the maximum allowable fee Massachusetts state-chartered banks and credit unions may assess certain consumer deposit accounts for processing dishonored checks, otherwise referred to as deposit return items (DRI), under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 167D, section 3 and Massachusetts General Laws chapter 171, section 41A. 1 The maximum fee set by this decision shall remain in effect until, or shortly after March 31, 2011.

2010 DRI Determination

The 2010 dishonored check or DRI fee is based upon deposit return item cost data independently obtained from a sample of state-chartered banks and credit unions. The Division of Banks (Division) collected these data during the course of its regularly scheduled financial safety and soundness examinations under G. L. c.167, s.2. The sample of institutions reasonably reflects industry differences in asset size, charter type, geographical location and DRI processing procedures. The Division used three years of DRI cost data to determine the maximum allowable fee under Chapter 178 of the Acts of 1997. The data collected from the Division's examination sampling process is summarized below.

A total of 68 institutions were surveyed. This sample included 40 banks and 28 credit unions 2. The cost of processing deposit returned items ranged from $0.72 to $19.13 per item. Banks generally had a lower average cost than credit unions. The average cost to process a deposit return item was $5.46 for banks and credit unions combined. Banks had an average cost of $5.12 and credit unions had an average cost of $7.71. The time for processing a DRI ranged from 3 to 31 minutes and the median cost of all institutions was $5.15 per item.

Conclusion

The maximum allowable fee Massachusetts state-chartered banks and credit unions may assess certain consumer deposit accounts for processing dishonored checks or DRI items under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 167D, section 3 and Massachusetts General Laws chapter 171, section 41A, respectively, shall be $5.15. The existing fee shall remain in effect until March 31, 2010 or such later time as individual institutions have complied with the increased fee notice provisions required under the State and federal truth in savings laws. This fee determination shall be in effect from March 31, 2010 to March 31, 2011 or until such time as the Division issues its 2011 DRI fee decision.

State-chartered institutions are advised that the above DRI fee is the maximum fee permitted by law. Institutions, however, may elect to impose a lower DRI fee or to waive the fee for their customers.



February 25, 2010
Date
Steven L. Antonakes
Commissioner of Banks

1These statutes govern the consumer deposit accounts of state-chartered banks and credit unions, respectively. The provisions are substantially identical. The statutes provide in pertinent part: "... no bank [or credit union] shall assess any fee, charge or other assessment against any account, established for personal, family or household purposes, of a depositor, who as the payee of a check, draft or money order, of which the payee is not also the maker, deposits the same therein and payment on any such instrument is refused by the depository institution upon which it is drawn because of insufficient funds or because the maker thereof did not have an account at such depository institution; provided, further, that a bank [or credit union] may assess a reasonable fee, charge or assessment that represents its direct costs, as established annually by the commissioner of banks, incurred for processing such, draft or money order." (Emphasis supplied.)

2 The list of institutions surveyed includes 14 cooperative banks, 20 savings banks, 6 commercial banks and 28 credit unions. Asset sizes of all the institutions surveyed ranged from $7 million to $7 billion. The total assets of all the institutions were $36 billion. The survey was conducted during regular safety and soundness examinations conducted in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Institutions selected were done so solely on the basis of examination scheduling. As a result, the components of the sample are randomly derived and are not necessarily a representative sample of all institutions. The examiners independently collected the information after discussing the particular institution's DRI practices and procedures with affected institution personnel. All collected data was reviewed for reasonableness.)