The Internet’s popularity has risen greatly in the last few years and it’s popularity has forced most industries to go online. The Internet’s millions of users have attracted commercal banks. People are increasingly using the Internet for financial services in addtion to using the Internet for research, education, The last few years have seen an explosive proliferation of the Internet, with millions of users around the world logging on for a growing number of purposes. People shop, research, take classes and file their taxes on the ‘net, and, increasingly, are using online banking services to manage their personal finances.
Personal computers, telephonic banking and increasingly sophisticated automated teller machines are becoming commonplace as consumers abandon daily or weekly trips to their local bank branches in favor of more convenient electronic financial service. Although consumers appreciate the speed and convenience of electronic banking, there is growing concern over the security of Internet transmissions. H.R. 2937, for example, provides for the recognition of digital authentication in place of signatures, a move that has supporters praising the technological savvy of the banking industry, but leaves some critics deeply concerned at the possibility of misuse by criminal hackers.
While ATMs are a more “secure” form of electronic banking, consumers are paying in other ways. Fifty-four percent of the nation’s banks add surcharges for the convenience of using the ATMs of their competitor’s banks, and many independent ATMs operated by non-depository institutions are charging fees as well.
Critics, led by Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, D-N.Y., are calling for a ban of these surcharges, saying that banks are profiting by “gouging” customers with outrageous fees. Others argue, however, that banks make little or no profit off the surcharges, and that independent ATM operators – who place their ATMs in traditionally unprofitable yet highly convenient locations like airports and grocery stores – need to charge nominal fees just to break even.
Electronic banking is here to stay, and is growing along with the Internet as a whole. This section looks at the impact it will have on consumers and the banking industry, the conflicting opinions about the merits of eliminating the paper trail, and the regulations and legislation proposed to manage banking’s trip on the information superhighway.