• February 18, 2013

ATM Fee Notice From Wells Fargo ATM

Update (February 15, 2013):  Uh-oh.  When will this end?

Update (August 9, 2012):  U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) holds that the “Fee Notice” sign on an ATM is “not prominent and conspicuous as a matter of law.”

Update (December 16, 2011): Coincidentally, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis (D. Minn.) ruled against a putative class action this week related to a single ATM that apparently lacked its ATM Fee Notice Sticker.  As such, plaintiff’s case had some marginally greater merit than the case described below.  But, still, with all due respect, plaintiff has no class (as the Court held in a sense). (Plaintiff admitted that he was given notice of the $3.00 charge on the ATM screen and went forward with the transaction regardless.  So his actual damages therefore were what?  Assuming that the plaintiff had canceled the transaction on learning about the fee on the screen, maybe his damages would be the dollar value of about 8 seconds or so of his life between when he would have read the ATM fee sticker versus reading about the charge on the ATM screen?  A human life is reportedly worth about $9 million these days.  If that value is equal for all time, then that makes 8 seconds of our lives worth about $0.03.  Most would conclude that this is not worth suing over but who are we to judge?)

Original post (Dec. 12, 2011):  See the ATM Fee Notice in the photo?  Compare the photos of Wells Fargo ATMs in the complaint here. Do you see the ATM fee notices on the ATMs photographed in the complaint now pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (before U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.))?

Apparently, the plaintiff’s counsel intentionally photographed all of the ATMs so that the inner wall by the ATM screen on which each bears the notice are not visible.

To be clear:  plaintiff’s counsel (and, incidentally, Minnesota Litigator has heard that plaintiff Anthony Brown is also a Minnesota lawyer) is bringing a class action, alleging that Wells Fargo fee notices are not “prominent and conspicuous,” and, as support, they provide deceptive photographs that obscure where the notice is located.

Consumer plaintiffs’ lawyers often go up against institutional defendants for serious wrong-doing.  They often face daunting imbalances of power, resources, and challenging odds.  Some consumer rights lawyers rightly deserve high regard.  They are the Davids often braving battles against Goliaths  (folks like these guys or these guys).

On the other hand, when lawyers use deceptive photos while accusing banks of being deceptive, the social harm is (or should be) prominent and conspicuous.

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