NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the biggest U.S. bank, and two large credit unions have taken the lead in cleaning up the banking industry’s fee-laden fine print for checking accounts, an advocacy group said on Thursday.
JPMorgan Chase, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union and the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union have started presenting account fee schedules in simple, boxed tables of three pages or less, according to the Pew Health Group, the health and consumer-product safety arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Fee disclosure documents for large banks typically run 111 pages and hide important fees from customers in technical fine print, according to an April report by Pew’s Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project. Bank fees became a focus of federal lawmakers in the aftermath of the credit crisis.
Many people have been surprised by fees they were charged, Pew researchers found in interviews with consumers. Fee disclosures are too dense for consumers to know better, said Susan Weinstock, director of the Pew project.
“It is basically impossible to comparison shop for a checking account,” Weinstock said in an interview. She hopes the new tables will change that.
JPMorgan Chase is posting its first table online on Thursday for its most-used “Total Checking” account. The bank plans to roll out similar presentations for other types of accounts in the new year, Ryan McInerney, CEO of the company’s consumer bank, told Reuters.
Another large bank and some regional banks and other credit unions are working to bring out simplified tables of their own soon, Weinstock said . She is calling on the government’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to require all banks to do the same.
Banks’ fee revenue could come under pressure if it is easier for consumers to compare charges.
As JPMorgan Chase began to boil down the fees into a table, executives decided some were bad for business and had to go. For example, the bank dropped charges of $25 for closing an account within 90 days of opening it and $15 to receive a rush copy of an item.
“We think this will create more loyal customers and grow our business,” McInerney said.
McInerney said the moves will pay off with higher revenues over time by winning over more customers.
JPMorgan Chase began work on the new disclosure shortly after Pew released its critical report in April. The bank tested the table with customers in focus groups and interviews, and then refined it , McInerney said.
Long legal disclosures of terms and conditions will continue to exist. For those who want to check the details, McInerney said the bank intends to embed Internet links to the fine print in online copies of its tables.
Reporting By David Henry