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Bank denies its practices hurt

By Daniel Wagner
Associated Press / July 1, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Bank of America Corp. denied accusations that its retail practices pressure consumers into needlessly costly products that contributed to the credit crisis.

“Bank of America is committed to ensuring our fees are transparent and predictable,’’ spokeswoman Anne Pace wrote in an e-mail yesterday. “We also provide tools and services that give our customers more control and flexibility to effectively manage their accounts and prevent fees.’’

Pace was responding to a conference call yesterday by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Current and former bank employees participated on the call, which was organized by the Service Employees International Union.

Among other charges, the coalition said Bank of America and other big banks pay tellers and phone representatives steep commissions to pressure consumers into high-cost programs like credit protection and overdraft protection.

Pace wrote the coalition’s claims “misrepresent [Bank of America’s] relationship with its customers and its associates.’’ She declined to comment on specific charges from former employees, except to call the bank’s practices “fair.’’

Her statement said the Charlotte, N.C. bank maintains open communication between employees and managers, but did not address the labor group’s key demand that bank workers be afforded whistle-blower protections so they can alert regulators to questionable practices.