CBS Plays the Victim Card and Takes It to the Bank

CBS Plays the Victim Card and Takes It to the Bank
Evening News criticizes controversial new fee after man overspends his account

By Dan Gainor
April 13, 2005

     On the CBS Evening News, if you spend more money than you actually have, youre still a victim. According to anchor Bob Schieffer, banks had hit the subject of their story with a controversial new fee worthy of a consumer alert.

     The April 11, 2005 newscast focused on Christopher Keeley of Brooklyn, N.Y. who relied on debit cards to make purchases, even after his account was almost entirely empty. When Keeley made purchases, rather then decline them, the bank approved them under a new service called courtesy overdraft protection. That service allowed debit card holders to overcharge, but charged a fee for each purchase.

     Reporter Randall Pinkston emphasized the cost of the fees, but never interviewed any of the customers who had pushed for the new service. Consumer advocates say banks have gone fee crazy. In addition to the first fee, some banks tack on daily charges until the courtesy has been repaid. Its all legal and very profitable, said Pinkston.

     The story also portrayed banks as relying on the money from overdrafts, without making it clear that such fees are intended to discourage customers from spending money that isnt theirs and to subsidize other services offered for free. Pinkston also ignored the fact that bounced checks can actually cost more than the fee the banks are charging. Merchants typically charge for every returned check on top of the banks fee for insufficient funds.

     Even though Keeley admitted at the end of the story that he was a bad book keeper, Pinkston still placed the blame on the bank, even though it had lowered the fee in this case: And it's those mistakes that banks are counting on, he concluded.