It's one thing to be addicted to a drug, but it's worse to be hooked because someone else is addicted.
The someone in this case is Bank of America, along with JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other members of the big bankers gang. The drug they're hooked on is one they love, rely on, and have no desire to shake: consumer fees. Such assessments on their own customers are now a major source of income in their banking systems, and they're more creative than other kinds of junkies in finding ways to get more of the stuff.
One especially infuriating creation by these fee junkies is one that hooks you to their addiction: Internet banking. To draw you in, they initially offered free online bill-paying, electronic deposits, etc. "Sign up with us," they purred, "we're here to serve you!"
Millions were lured in. But then — gotcha! — "free" soon turned into fees. Well, customers could just move their Internet business to another bank, right? Not so simple. The banks have deliberately wired their technology to make it a pain in the rear for anyone to switch. Instead of just click on "move," you have to disentangle each one of your electronic transactions separately — your various credit card accounts, rent payments, utility bills, etc., etc.
One fellow who tried to move from Bank of America says he was so overwhelmed by the complications of switching dozens of his online arrangements that he gave up: "I'm really annoyed," he told the New York Times, "but someone at Bank of America made that calculation."
Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., having made his own calculation that consumers should be able to move at will, has introduced a bill in Congress to make it easier for customers to free themselves from their bank's fee addiction. For information, go to Rep. Miller's website at bradmiller.house.gov.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.