New York Waives Bank Fees and Warns of Price Gouging Amid Disastrous Winter Storm — What To Look Out For

NY: Metro North Expansion Access Project, Bronx, New York, United States - 09 Dec 2022
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In light of the devastating winter storm that is continuing to wreak havoc in New York, the state recently announced several measures to protect consumers and provide financial relief.

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These measures include waiving some bank fees and warning consumers about potential price gouging certain businesses might be involved in.

The state has asked state-chartered banking organizations, federally chartered banks and credit unions to provide fee-free services to customers and non-customers while travel conditions remain dangerous, according to an announcement.

These measures may include waiving ATM fees, increasing ATM cash withdrawal limits, or easing restrictions on cashing non-customer checks, according to Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement.

“As we await the end of this storm, this new guidance will ensure that New Yorkers can safely access financial services without traveling in these dangerous conditions. My administration will continue to take action to ease the financial burden on New Yorkers who have felt the impact of this tragic storm,” Gov. Hochul said in the announcement.

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M&T Bank announced on Dec. 28 that, due to the impact of the storm, it would waive ATM fees in Western New York.

“Through January 10, 2023, M&T is waiving fees for anyone who uses M&T Bank ATMs in Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, Genesee, Orleans, Monroe counties,” M&T Bank tweeted. “M&T won’t charge our customers in Western New York for using a non-M&T Bank ATM.  Please note that other banks may charge you a fee.”

The governor’s office also warned customers about price gouging and asked them to report such instances, which occur “when a business takes advantage of consumers during an emergency declaration and sells essential goods or services in the affected area for an excessive price,” according to the announcement.

Examples of such behavior include hotels hiking their prices during a crisis, or hardware stores increasing prices on necessary supplies such as bags of sand.

To report such practices, consumers can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Consumer Protection on the Department of State website — or call the consumer helpline at 1-800-697-1220.

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“It is unconscionable, not to mention illegal, for businesses to take advantage of their customers with price gouging after they’ve been hit with a devastating winter storm and desperately trying to recover,” New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in an announcement. “Consumers do not have to do this on their own which is why the Division of Consumer Protection is urging consumers to file a complaint so together we can fight this illegal activity.”

On Dec. 23, New York Attorney General Letitia James also issued an alert reminding consumers and businesses across the state that price gouging during — and in the aftermath of — the storm is illegal.

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In addition, the AG’s office reminded consumers to protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services.

Some of those tips include: shopping around by getting at least three estimates from reputable contractors; getting a detailed contract in writing; never paying the full price up front; checking with the Better Business Bureau, banks and suppliers for references; and knowing your rights.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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