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Hidden Bank Fees Focus of New Survey

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    Many consumers are not being told about bank fees, according to a national survey released today by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

    A survey of more than 350 bank branches revealed that more than half of the branches did not obey a law that requires banks to fully disclose fees to prospective customers. Almost one in four researchers received no fee information at all, according to the survey.

    The report -- Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Bank Fees -- includes consumer tips and a local comparison shopping guide.

    “Shopping for banks is harder when they don’t obey the law and provide up front information about the fees they charge,” said Jenny Levin, a Maryland PIRG associate.

    The survey states 38 percent of banks visited provided researchers with fee schedules as required by law on their first request. After two or more requests, a total of 55 percent complied with the law.

    Even though many big banks have tightened requirements for free checking, the report shows they have not eliminated it. Researchers found a wide variety of free or low-cost options at more than half of the branches surveyed.

    Following the survey, U.S. PIRG passed along a list of recommendations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which takes over most consumer law writing and enforcement in July.

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