Banking Law §14-f
November 22, 2002
This is in response to your letter to Deputy Superintendent Vincent Conlon, dated June 21, 2002, concerning the advertising and marketing requirements of basic banking accounts that are set forth in Banking Law §14-f (8). That section reads as follows:
Where a banking institution posts in the public area of its office notice of the availability of its other consumer transaction accounts, it shall also post equally conspicuous notice in such public areas and in the same manner the availability of its basic banking accounts. Where a banking institutions makes available in such public areas material describing the terms of its other consumer transaction accounts, it shall also make comparable descriptive material available in the same such areas and in the same manner for its basic banking account.
The intent of the legislature in enacting the statute was to make lower cost consumer transaction accounts available to residents of this state who might otherwise be unable to afford them without undue hardship. It is obvious that in order to take advantage of such services the persons for whom such accounts are to be made available must be aware of their existence. Hence, the requirement in section 14-f (8) of equal notice.
However, the statute does not require equal notice under all circumstances. Rather, notice of the availability of basic banking accounts must be given where a bank posts notice of "its other consumer transaction accounts." Thus, a bank may promote a single consumer transaction account if it is not, at the same time, posting notice of the availability of all or substantially all of its other consumer transaction accounts.
With respect to the specific examples that you have cited-(1) advertising displays on the façade of a branch building, (2) advertising displays in areas of the branch in which the public is not permitted, (3) advertising displays at a mobile banking unit, and (4) advertising displays at on-premise ATMS, including ads on receipts-we do not believe it would be necessary in those instances to disclose the availability of basic bank accounts, provided only a single product is being advertised.
We trust that the foregoing also provides the elaboration you requested concerning our general view of the meaning of the basic banking statute and the manner in which it should be interpreted.
Lastly, your letter suggests that you may be aware of possible violations of the basic banking statute. We would appreciate it if you would advise us of possible violations so that we can investigate them. We, too, are interested in maintaining a "level playing field."
We hope that the foregoing is helpful.
Bryan J. Farrell