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Home > News & Events > Inactive Financial Institution Letters




Inactive Financial Institution Letters


[Federal Register: May 2, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 86)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 19696-19705]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


[[Page 19696]]

FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM

12 CFR Part 205

[Regulation E; Docket No. R-0919]

 Electronic Fund Transfers

AGENCY: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: The Board is publishing for comment proposed amendments to 
Regulation E, which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. The 
proposed amendments relate to: the use of electronic communication in 
home-banking services for providing disclosures and other 
documentation; error resolution requirements for new accounts; and the 
treatment of stored-value cards (imposing modified Regulation E 
requirements on stored-value products in systems that track individual 
transactions, cards, or consumers; providing an exemption for cards on 
which a maximum value of $100 can be stored; and providing that other 
stored-value cards are not covered by Regulation E).

DATES: Comments must be received on or before August 1, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Comments should refer to Docket No. R-0919 and be mailed to 
William W. Wiles, Secretary, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve 
System, Washington, DC 20551. They may also be delivered to the guard 
station in the Eccles Building Courtyard on 20th Street, NW (between 
Constitution Avenue and C Street) between 8:45 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. 
weekdays. Except as provided in the Board's rules regarding the 
availability of information (12 CFR 261.8), comments will be available 
for inspection and copying by members of the public in the Freedom of 
Information Office, Room MP-500 of the Martin Building, between 9:00 
a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Regarding the proposed amendments on 
electronic communication, Michael Hentrel, Staff Attorney, and 
regarding the other proposed amendments, Jane Gell, Natalie Taylor, or 
Kyung Cho-Miller, Staff Attorneys, Division of Consumer and Community 
Affairs, at (202) 452-2412 or (202) 452-3667. For the hearing impaired 
only, Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), Dorothea Thompson, 
at (202) 452-3544.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) (15 U.S.C. 1693), enacted 
in 1978, provides a basic framework establishing the rights, 
liabilities, and responsibilities of participants in electronic fund 
transfer (EFT) systems. The Federal Reserve Board was given rulewriting 
authority to issue implementing regulations. Types of transfers covered 
by the act and regulation include transfers initiated through an 
automated teller machine (ATM), point-of-sale (POS) terminal, automated 
clearinghouse, telephone bill-payment system, or home banking program. 
The act and Regulation E (12 CFR Part 205) provide rules that govern 
these and other EFTs. The rules prescribe restrictions on the 
unsolicited issuance of ATM cards and other access devices; disclosure 
of terms and conditions of an EFT service; documentation of EFTs by 
means of terminal receipts and periodic statements; limitations on 
consumer liability for unauthorized transfers; procedures for error 
resolution; and certain rights related to preauthorized EFTs.
    In 1994 the Board issued for public comment a proposed revision of 
Regulation E under the Board's Regulatory Planning and Review program. 
(The Board has taken final action on the proposal; a revised regulation 
and revised staff commentary are published in today's Federal 
Register.) As part of that process, and based in part on the public 
comments received, the Board identified areas that offer an opportunity 
for further burden reduction without undercutting consumer protection. 
One such area involves the use of electronic communication between 
consumers and financial institutions--for example, by personal computer 
and modem--in place of paper documents. The proposed revision published 
in 1994 included a provision that allowed electronic communication in 
place of paper for authorization of recurring electronic debits. The 
Board now proposes to permit electronic text messages to substitute for 
paper under Regulation E generally. The proposed revision also 
solicited comment generally on coverage of prepaid cards and other 
stored-value products under Regulation E. To resolve issues raised 
during and following the public comment period, the Board undertook an 
analysis of stored-value products and their treatment under Regulation 
E. The Board now proposes amendments under which many stored-value 
products would be exempt, and others would be covered under limited 
requirements.

II. Proposed Regulatory Revisions

    The following discussion covers the proposed amendments to 
Regulation E in the order of the sections of the regulation that would 
be affected--first addressing electronic communication, then error 
resolution for new accounts, and finally stored-value products.

Electronic Communication--Section 205.4(c)

    Financial institutions offer a wide variety of ``home banking'' 
services ranging from account inquiries, verifications, and fund 
transfers between accounts, to bill payment and full account 
management; and they are using various forms of electronic 
communication to deliver these services. Telephones and personal 
computers are the most common means of access to home banking services. 
Telephones with digital screens (``screen phones''), equipped with bar 
code or magnetic stripe readers, allow consumers to enter transactions 
off-line, then send the information to the financial institution on-
line. Financial institutions may offer consumers specialized software 
that allows the user to access bank information via personal computer; 
oftentimes this software is integrated with other on-line services. 
These EFT services use electronic communication as a fast, convenient, 
and sometimes less costly means of communication with the consumer. 
Electronic communication, for purposes of this discussion, means an 
electronically transmitted text message between a financial institution 
and a consumer's home computer or other electronic device possessed by 
the consumer.
    Under Regulation E, certain disclosures (such as initial 
disclosures and periodic statements) must be provided to consumers (1) 
in writing, (2) in a clear and readily understandable form, and (3) in 
a form that the consumer may keep. In the context of home banking and 
similar services, financial institutions have asked whether they may 
satisfy these requirements by providing the information electronically, 
for example, through a consumer's personal computer.
Are Electronic Communications ``Writings''
    Many Regulation E disclosures must be provided to consumers in 
writing. A writing, up to the present, has typically been presumed to 
mean a paper document. Information that is produced,

[[Page 19697]]

stored, or communicated by computer too is generally considered to be a 
writing, at least where text is involved. Indeed, in many office 
environments in the United States today, documents are produced, 
edited, revised, and communicated to others within the organization by 
the use of computers and electronic mail, and these documents are 
considered written documents when kept in electronic form as well as 
when printed on paper. Similarly, under other laws that call for 
information to be in writing, information in electronic form is 
considered to be ``written.''
    Communications by telephone (including voicemail systems) are 
typically characterized as oral communication as they do not have the 
feature generally associated with a writing--visual text. Therefore, 
pursuant to its authority under section 904(c) of the EFTA, the Board 
proposes to permit financial institutions to use an electronic 
communication where the regulation calls for information to be provided 
in writing, but to limit the scope of the term ``electronic 
communication'' to a communication in a form that can be displayed as 
visual text. An example would be an electronic message that the 
receiver could display on a screen (including a computer monitor or a 
screen phone).
Clear and Readily Understandable Form
    Regulation E requires financial institutions to provide required 
information in a clear and readily understandable form. Some means of 
displaying an electronic communication appear to meet this standard; 
for example, a personal computer monitor should allow the consumer to 
read the text of a disclosure. Others may not have this capability; a 
screen phone, for example, may display only a few lines of text at a 
time, making it difficult for a consumer to review initial disclosures 
or a periodic statement, where it may be necessary to move back and 
forth between various parts of the document. The Board believes that 
the requirement for clear and readily understandable disclosures 
applies fully to electronic communications. The Board requests specific 
comments on the likelihood and extent of compliance problems that could 
be caused by this requirement, as well as suggestions for resolving 
such problems.
Retainability
    The act and regulation establish a retainability requirement. In 
general, if information must be provided in writing, Regulation E 
requires that the information must be in a form that the consumer may 
retain.
    Consumers with home banking systems will most likely have the 
ability to download information, print it out, and store it on a 
computer disk for later retrieval. The responsibility to provide EFTA 
information in a retainable form belongs to the financial institution. 
Still, the Board recognizes that to satisfy the retainability 
requirement for electronic communications, financial institutions will 
have to rely on the consumer's having the capability to download data. 
The Board believes that where a consumer has agreed to receive 
information electronically, the financial institution should be deemed 
to satisfy the retention requirement by making information available 
for downloading, provided some consumer safeguards are established. In 
the event of printer malfunctions and other unforeseen computer 
problems, for instance, the consumer may be precluded from effectively 
retaining an electronic message received from a financial institution.
    The Board proposes to amend Regulation E to provide that if a 
financial institution uses electronic communication to send information 
that is required to be in writing, the consumer may request a paper 
copy of the information within one year after receipt of the electronic 
communication. Commenters are asked to address whether this is an 
appropriate time period, and if not, to offer suggestions for an 
alternative.
    The Board also solicits comment on possible alternatives to 
providing a paper copy upon request to consumers. One such means might 
be for a financial institution to maintain the information in data 
storage and re-send the information electronically to a consumer whose 
computer facilities were temporarily inoperable.
    Some electronic messages from a consumer to an institution trigger 
the need for a response from the institution. For example, an oral or 
written notice of error from a consumer requires the institution to 
investigate and resolve the error within a specified period. Some 
financial institutions have indicated that in accepting electronic 
communications from consumers, they may want to require paper 
verifications, for their own and the consumer's protection. For 
example, Regulation E provides that a consumer may stop payment of a 
preauthorized electronic fund transfer by notifying the institution 
orally or in writing, and that the institution may require written 
confirmation of an oral stop-payment order. If an institution accepts 
an electronic stop-payment order, the institution might want to require 
confirmation of the order in paper form, to make sure that a 
preauthorized payment is not dishonored by mistake.
    The Board believes that (as in the case of an oral communication) 
if the consumer sends an electronic communication to the institution, 
the institution could require a confirmation from the consumer in paper 
form. Comment is requested, however, on whether and how the regulation 
should address this point.
    Electronic communication between financial institutions and 
consumers could also be used in contexts other than home banking. For 
example, a consumer who possesses a modem-equipped personal computer 
may wish to send and receive information required by Regulation E about 
an EFT service used by the consumer, such as debit card access to the 
consumer's account. The proposal covers this situation. The Board 
solicits comment on whether the regulation should, as proposed, permit 
electronic communication to substitute for paper disclosures and other 
required paper messages for EFT services other than home banking, or 
should limit electronic communication to home-banking services.

Error Resolution for New Accounts--Section 205.11

    Regulation E requires a financial institution to investigate and 
resolve a consumer's claim of error within specified time limits. An 
institution generally is expected to resolve the alleged error within 
ten business days after receiving a notice of error. If the institution 
needs more time, it must provisionally credit the consumer's account 
and resolve the error no later than 45 calendar days after receiving 
the notice.
    In the course of commenting on the Board's 1994 proposal to revise 
Regulation E, some institutions requested that the Board use its 
exception authority under the statute either (1) to exempt new accounts 
from the requirement to provisionally credit the account by the tenth 
business day or (2) to extend the time period for resolving errors.
    Commenters expressed concern about individuals who open a new 
account with the intent to defraud. Such individuals may open an 
account, immediately withdraw all or a large amount of the funds 
through ATMs, and file a claim with the financial institution disputing 
the ATM transactions. Often they receive provisional credit because of 
the financial institution's inability to

[[Page 19698]]

research the claim (such as by obtaining photographic evidence from ATM 
cameras) within ten business days. At that point, the individual 
immediately withdraws the funds that were provisionally credited and 
abandons the account. Commenters believe that having more time to 
investigate errors involving new accounts would enable institutions to 
limit their losses and control this type of fraud.
    Some commenters pointed to the Board's exception for new accounts 
under Regulation CC, which implements the Expedited Funds Availability 
Act. There, the regulation extends the time within which an institution 
is required to make funds available to a customer for new accounts. 
Regulation CC defines a new account as an account during the first 30 
calendar days after the first deposit to the account is made.
    The Board proposes to amend Regulation E, pursuant to its section 
904(c) authority to provide for adjustments and exceptions in the 
regulation, to extend the time periods for resolving errors that 
involve new accounts. The proposal would allow 20 business days for 
resolving an error before an institution is required to provisionally 
credit, and an outside limit of 90 calendar days for resolving the 
claim. Comment is solicited on the proposed extensions of time, on the 
30-day definition for new accounts, and on whether consumer protections 
relating to error resolution would be adversely affected.

Stored-Value Systems--Section 205.16

    Over the past few years the financial services industry has shown 
increasing interest in providing ``stored-value cards'' (also referred 
to as prepaid or value-added cards) to consumers. These cards maintain, 
typically in a computer chip or magnetic stripe, a ``stored value'' of 
funds available to the consumer for access primarily at retail 
locations. The balance recorded on the card is debited at a merchant's 
POS terminal when the consumer makes a purchase.
    Products that could be characterized broadly as ``stored-value'' 
cover a wide range. In their simplest form, stored-value systems are 
targeted at low-value uses (public transit, pay telephones, or 
photocopiers, for example); the amount that can be stored on the card 
is limited; and the card is disposed of once its value has been used 
up. These cards typically have a single type of use, and only one card 
issuer and one entity (likely to be the same as the issuer) that 
accepts the card as payment for goods or services.
    More sophisticated systems can involve large transactions and 
permit consumers to store value in the hundreds of dollars on a card. 
The cards may have multiple uses, and there may be multiple card 
issuers and multiple card-accepting merchants. The cards may allow the 
consumer to obtain cash from ATMs instead of, or in addition to, making 
purchases. At least one system (now in the pilot stage) would enable 
the consumer to transfer stored-value balances to another person's 
card. Some systems would provide access to funds in foreign currencies. 
Cards tend to be reloadable, allowing the consumer to load value onto 
the card, for example, by withdrawing funds from an account at a 
depository institution through a teller, via an ATM, or, potentially, 
via a specially-equipped telephone. Some systems are designed as stand-
alone products. In other cases, stored-value features may be added to 
debit or credit cards. Some of these more sophisticated stored-value 
systems are in operation as pilot programs or are under development by 
financial institutions or associations of institutions.
    Colleges and universities are increasingly adding a stored-value 
feature to student identification cards, so that students can make 
purchases at campus locations such as cafeterias, bookstores, and 
vending machines. In some cases, the educational institution is both 
the issuer and the only card-accepting entity; in others, the card is 
also accepted by off-campus merchants. In addition to the stored-value 
features that some student card systems may have, these systems may 
operate with student asset accounts maintained by the university or by 
a depository institution on behalf of the university; these accounts 
are covered by Regulation E.
    There are significant differences among proposed systems in the 
manner that they handle balances and transaction data. Some systems 
operate off-line, with transaction approval and data retention 
occurring only at the merchant level. The balance of available funds 
may be stored only on the card itself as transactions occur, and 
transactions neither require nor receive authorization from a central 
database. The data for a given transaction are kept at the merchant 
location, and are not forwarded to the central data facility. Only the 
aggregate amount for a batch of transactions is transmitted by the 
merchant (usually daily) so that the merchant can receive appropriate 
credit from a financial institution. In other off-line systems, the 
dollar value remaining on the card is stored both on the card and in a 
central data facility. Data for individual transactions are transmitted 
to the central data facility, typically at the end of each business 
day, and maintained there. Still other systems operate on-line, and 
transactions are authorized by communication between a terminal and a 
central database.
Status of Stored-Value Cards Under the EFTA
    In 1994, the Board issued proposed revisions to Regulation E under 
the Board's Regulatory Planning and Review program. At that time, the 
Board generally requested comment on whether, and the extent to which, 
the regulation should apply to stored-value cards. The Board made clear 
that a transaction involving such cards is covered by Regulation E when 
the transaction accesses a consumer's account (such as when value is 
``loaded'' onto the card from the consumer's deposit account via an 
ATM). Among the commenters that addressed this issue, many asked the 
Board to provide an exemption from Regulation E for stored-value cards 
and other stored-value products so as not to hinder their development 
or, alternatively, to modify the requirements applicable to them.
    Legislation introduced and still pending in the Congress would 
exempt stored-value cards and other stored-value products from the EFTA 
and Regulation E. (H.R. 2520, 104th Cong., 1st Sess., Sec. 443; S. 650, 
104th Cong., 1st Sess., Sec. 601 (1995).) The Board has suggested in 
congressional testimony that, while certain provisions of Regulation E 
should not apply, it would be appropriate to first examine basic issues 
raised by these new payments systems before legislating a blanket 
exemption from the EFTA. The Board mentioned terminal receipts and 
periodic statements as examples of requirements that should not apply, 
but suggested that consumers might benefit from receiving initial 
disclosures (such as disclosure of a consumer's risk for unauthorized 
transactions), a requirement that would likely entail minimal added 
expense for card issuers.
Coverage Issue
    Coverage of stored-value systems under the EFTA and Regulation E 
depends on whether a stored-value transaction involves an EFT from a 
consumer's asset account. The act defines an ``electronic fund 
transfer'' as a transfer of funds initiated through electronic means 
(such as an electronic terminal or a computer) that results in a debit 
or credit to an account. Stored-value transactions involve a transfer 
of funds and are carried out through

[[Page 19699]]

electronic means--namely, terminals in retail locations that read the 
magnetic strip or chip embedded in the card.
    The act defines ``account'' as a demand deposit, savings, or other 
``asset account''--as described in regulations of the Board--that is 
established primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. 
Asset accounts are not limited to traditional checking and other 
deposit accounts. For example, the term includes a consumer's money 
market mutual fund or other securities account held by a broker-dealer. 
The Board also interprets the term ``account'' to include accounts 
established by government agencies under electronic benefit transfer 
(EBT) programs (59 FR 10678, March 7, 1994).
    The legislative history of the act provides guidance as to the 
Board's regulatory authority under the EFTA for determining issues of 
coverage. Senate Banking Committee reports noted that the ``definitions 
of `financial institution' and `account' are deliberately broad so as 
to assure that all persons who offer equivalent EFT services involving 
any type of asset account are subject to the same standards and 
consumers owning such accounts are assured of uniform protection.'' (S. 
Rep. No. 915, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 9 (1978).) This concept is captured 
in section 904(d) of the EFTA, which provides that if EFT services 
``are made available to consumers by a person other than a financial 
institution holding a consumer's account, the Board shall by regulation 
assure that the disclosures, protections, responsibilities, and 
remedies created by this title are made applicable to such persons and 
services.''
    Further, section 904(c) provides that the rules issued by the Board 
``may contain such classifications, differentiations, or other 
provisions * * * as in the judgment of the Board are necessary or 
proper to effectuate the purposes of this title, [or] to prevent 
circumvention or evasion thereof. * * *'' Senate Banking Committee 
reports on two separate bills, in discussing section 904(c), stated 
that ``since no one can foresee EFT developments in the future, 
regulations would keep pace with new services and assure that the act's 
basic protections continue to apply.'' (S. Rep. No. 915, 95th Cong., 2d 
Sess. 10 (1978).)
Types of Stored-Value Systems
    In some stored-value systems, the balance of funds available is 
recorded on the card, but is also maintained at a central data facility 
at a bank or elsewhere. The systems operate off-line; there is no 
authorization of transactions by communication with a database at a 
financial institution or elsewhere. Transaction data are periodically 
transmitted to and maintained by a data facility. As in the case of the 
traditional consumer deposit account accessed by a debit card, in these 
stored-value card systems a consumer has the right to draw upon funds 
held by an institution. The maintenance of a record of value and of 
transactions for a given card apart from the card itself--so that 
transactions are traceable to the individual card--strongly parallels 
the functioning of a deposit account. The Board believes that the facts 
support a finding that such systems involve an account for purposes of 
the EFTA. These systems are referred to below as ``off-line accountable 
stored-value systems.''
    In another type of stored-value system that also operates off-line, 
the record of value is maintained only on the card itself, and not in a 
central database. Transaction data for debits to the card's ``stored 
value'' are recorded on the card and captured at merchant terminals 
(where they are maintained for a limited period of time). Only the 
aggregate amount of transactions for a given period is transmitted by 
the merchant to a financial institution or other entity so that the 
merchant can receive credit. Given the lack of a centrally maintained, 
ongoing record of individual card balances or of transaction data in 
these systems, it is more difficult to conclude that an ``account'' 
exists for purposes of Regulation E. These systems will be referred to 
below as ``off-line unaccountable stored-value systems.''
    A third type of stored-value system operates in a manner that is 
the functional equivalent of using a debit card to access a traditional 
deposit account. Notably, this type of system involves on-line access 
to a database for purposes of transaction authorization and data 
capture. That is, when the card is used at an ATM or a POS terminal, 
the transaction is authorized by means of on-line communication with 
the data facility, where the transaction data are stored (including 
information such as merchant identification, amount, date, and card 
number). The balance of funds available to the consumer is not recorded 
on the card itself, as in off-line stored-value systems; instead, the 
balance information is maintained in the data facility. Two 
distinctions between these systems and traditional deposit accounts 
accessed by debit card are (1) the value associated with a card is 
limited to the amount that the cardholder has chosen to make accessible 
through the card (as opposed to a deposit account accessed by debit 
card, where the entire account is accessible and funds available may 
fluctuate); and (2) the value associated with the card is accessible 
only through use of the card itself (in contrast to deposit accounts 
accessible by debit card, which typically may be accessed through 
various means, including check, withdrawal slip, ACH, or telephone bill 
payment).
    The Board believes these systems--which are referred to as ``on-
line stored-value systems''--meet the definition of a consumer asset 
account, and thus are covered by Regulation E, based on their on-line 
operation and extensive data capture and retention. As discussed below, 
however, the Board also believes it is appropriate to propose modifying 
the rules applicable to these systems.
Modifications and Exceptions for Various Types of Stored-Value Systems
    The discussion that follows is organized to address separately each 
of the three types of systems described above--off-line accountable 
stored-value systems, off-line unaccountable stored-value systems, and 
on-line stored-value systems. The Board notes that, in all three types 
of systems, a transaction in which a stored-value card is used to 
access a consumer's deposit account, such as ``reloading'' the card by 
drawing on the consumer's checking account at an ATM, is covered by 
Regulation E and subject to all Regulation E requirements. The 
discussion below, therefore, relates to transactions in which value 
stored on a card is drawn down to obtain cash or purchase goods or 
services.
A. Off-line ``Accountable'' Stored-Value Systems
    To the extent that off-line accountable stored-value systems are 
similar to systems involving debit cards and traditional deposit 
accounts, parallel consumer protections under Regulation E may be 
appropriate. If these stored-value systems were to be covered by all 
requirements of Regulation E, however, their further development could 
be seriously slowed or even halted in some cases. The following 
discussion presents an analysis of the major provisions of Regulation 
E, including the compliance burdens to financial institutions and the 
benefits to consumers associated with each.
    1. Restrictions on unsolicited issuance of access devices. 
Generally Regulation E prohibits issuing a debit card, personal 
identification number (PIN), or other ``access device'' to a consumer 
(for example, by mail) unless the consumer has requested the device, 
orally or in writing. The purpose is to avoid making

[[Page 19700]]

consumers' accounts accessible by a means that consumers may not want 
and that may subject them to added risk, and to reduce the likelihood 
of unauthorized transactions from interception of cards. There is a 
qualified exception, for an access device that is not ``validated'' 
(meaning usable) at the time of issuance and that the issuer will 
validate only upon request by the consumer and verification of the 
consumer's identity.
    As a practical matter, most providers of stored-value products will 
likely issue stored-value cards only to consumers who request them. 
Some may choose to promote their product by targeting populations and 
sending unsolicited cards with small amounts of ``free money'' on the 
card. Such a practice would not appear to harm consumers, since there 
would be no access to the consumer's own deposit-account funds.
    Application of the unsolicited issuance rules to off-line 
accountable stored-value cards (aside from those that could access a 
consumer's existing deposit account, where the rules already apply) 
appears unnecessary for consumer protection. The Board proposes to 
exclude off-line accountable stored-value cards from the Regulation E 
rules on unsolicited issuance, but solicits specific comment on whether 
there is any practical need for the rules to apply.
    2. Initial disclosures. Regulation E requires that at the time a 
financial institution and a consumer enter into an agreement for an EFT 
service, the institution must disclose certain terms and conditions. 
Items to be disclosed include a summary of the consumer's liability for 
unauthorized transfers, error-resolution procedures, any limits on the 
frequency or dollar amount of transfers, and any fees or charges for 
individual transfers or for the service.
    Without the disclosure of terms and conditions, consumers might 
regard off-line accountable stored-value products as comparable to 
debit or credit cards, and thus might expect similar rights and 
remedies to apply. This could be particularly likely if the stored-
value feature were made part of the consumer's debit or credit card, or 
if a consumer could use the card for transactions in the same locations 
where debit or credit card transactions take place.
    Financial institutions that provide stored-value products may 
disclose certain information voluntarily; however, the disclosures that 
they opt to give could vary considerably. Requiring disclosures under 
Regulation E would ensure that uniform information is given to 
consumers. Such disclosures would be useful in alerting consumers to 
important features of these new services, such as transaction charges 
and risk of loss for lost or stolen cards.
    Providing initial disclosures would probably not impose significant 
compliance costs. The disclosures can be given along with the card or 
other account-opening material in a preprinted format; they need not be 
individually customized for each account. Accordingly, the Board 
proposes to amend Regulation E to require initial disclosures for off-
line accountable stored-value systems.
    The proposed amendment would not include all the items generally 
required to be disclosed under Regulation E, but only those that appear 
relevant to off-line accountable stored-value systems. These include 
the disclosures of consumer liability for unauthorized transactions; 
the types of transfers available; transaction charges, if any; and 
error resolution procedures available to the consumer, if any. The 
disclosure of consumer liability for unauthorized transactions would 
expressly state that the consumer bears the full risk of loss (if such 
is the case), or would state any limits on liability that might be 
adopted by agreement with the consumer.
    3. Change-in-terms notices. Under Regulation E, if terms or 
conditions required to be disclosed (such as limits on transfers, or 
transaction fees) were to change from those initially in effect, the 
institution must generally notify the consumer at least 21 days before 
the effective date of the change.
    Whether change-in-terms notices are relevant for off-line 
accountable stored-value products depends on whether contract terms 
applicable to the card are likely to change. If there are increases in 
transaction charges, for instance, it is reasonable for consumers to be 
informed of the increase before it takes effect. (It appears that, 
currently at least, charges are not imposed on stored-value 
transactions.) But issuers of some of these products may not expect to 
have an ongoing relationship with the consumer, and thus may not 
typically obtain an address at the time the consumer purchases the 
card. In some cases, stored-value cards are freely transferrable; even 
if the card issuer has the address of the original cardholder, the 
issuer may not have the address of a subsequent holder. If the value 
stored on the card is likely to be used within a short period, it is 
also probable that new transaction charges would not be imposed or 
charges increased during its lifetime.
    The Board believes that the potential costs of having to comply 
with the change-in-terms notice requirement outweighs the consumer 
protections that would be afforded by such notices and proposes to 
exempt off-line accountable stored-value systems from this requirement. 
The Board specifically solicits comment on whether there might be 
circumstances in which the notice requirement should apply.
    4. Transaction receipts and periodic statements. For an EFT 
initiated at an ATM or a POS terminal, Regulation E requires that a 
transaction receipt be made available to a consumer. The receipt must 
show the date, amount, type of transaction and account, card or account 
number, terminal location, and name of any third party (such as a 
merchant) involved in the transfer. The regulation also requires 
periodic account statements, generally monthly, that detail largely the 
same information as on terminal receipts and provide other information 
such as opening and closing account balances and fees or charges 
assessed during the statement period. These receipts and periodic 
statements allow consumers to verify account activity and to detect 
unauthorized transactions and errors, so that they can be reported and 
resolved.
    For off-line accountable stored-value products, documentation 
requirements could present compliance difficulties and considerable 
costs, while providing only limited benefits to consumers. In some 
cases, receipts may be given whether or not required by Regulation E. A 
retailer that accepts debit cards must provide receipts under 
Regulation E for debit card transactions, and therefore might provide 
receipts for stored-value card transactions as well. But if the card 
can be used at places not equipped with printers (such as vending 
machines), to require receipts would necessitate a retrofitting of 
terminals and would impose ongoing compliance costs. Moreover, for 
small or commonly-made transactions, many consumers may not want or 
need a receipt.
    The requirement for periodic statements too may present compliance 
problems for some off-line accountable stored-value systems. In some of 
these systems, transaction data are collected in centralized data 
facilities, not by the card-issuing financial institutions. Given that 
lack of data, providing periodic statements would be costly and could 
impede the development of stored-value products. Moreover, as in the 
case of receipts, for small or commonly-made transactions on these 
cards, consumers may not need or want documentation on a periodic 
statement.

[[Page 19701]]

    The Board believes that the consumer benefits of terminal receipts 
and periodic statements--in the context of stored-value transactions--
may be somewhat limited and be outweighed by the compliance costs. 
Consequently, the Board proposes to exempt off-line accountable stored-
value systems from these requirements.
    5. Limitations on consumer liability for unauthorized transfers. 
Regulation E generally limits a consumer's losses for unauthorized EFT 
debits to a maximum of $50. If the consumer fails to notify the 
financial institution of the loss or theft of a debit card or other 
``access device'' within two business days of learning of the loss or 
theft, the consumer's potential liability rises to $500. If the 
consumer fails to notify the institution of unauthorized transfers 
appearing on a periodic statement within 60 days after the institution 
sent the statement, the consumer's liability for any further 
unauthorized transfers is unlimited.
    Absent Regulation E's limits on liability, stored-value cardholders 
bear the entire risk unless the issuer opts to assume some part of it 
(or offers insurance to consumers against losses). If the regulatory 
liability limits applied, the risk would be imposed on the issuer, 
because these systems operate off-line and will not typically require 
PIN-protection or any other means of identifying the consumer. Without 
PIN-protection there is an almost certain likelihood that lost or 
stolen cards could and would be used.
    Some off-line accountable systems could conceivably store negative 
files at merchant POS terminals for blocking unauthorized transactions. 
Thus, they might be able to prevent unauthorized use, assuming a 
consumer promptly reported loss or theft of the card. But many systems 
do not have this capability. In addition, even for those that could, 
the cost of transmitting negative files to terminals frequently enough 
to effectively block unauthorized transactions could be prohibitive.
    Arguably, the lack of PIN-protection in these systems may lead 
consumers to be more careful in handling the cards. Consumers might act 
more prudently if initial disclosures were provided, explaining the 
risk. In addition, if loss does occur, the amount stored on the card 
may be substantially less than would typically be at risk with the loss 
or theft of a traditional debit card, where the deposit account may 
serve several purposes (as a repository for savings or for paying 
bills, for instance), and thus may tend to have a larger account 
balance.
    In light of these factors, the Board proposes to exempt off-line 
accountable stored-value cards from the liability provisions. Under the 
proposal, the initial disclosures given to consumers would summarize 
the full extent of their risk.
    6. Error resolution procedures. Regulation E requires financial 
institutions to investigate and resolve claims of error made by 
consumers within specified times--generally, no later than ten business 
days after receiving the consumer's notice of error; or 45 days after 
the notice if the institution provisionally credits the consumer's 
account, in the amount of the claimed error, within ten business days. 
A summary of these procedures is given to consumers with the initial 
disclosures, and consumers also receive an annual notice as a reminder. 
``Error'' includes an unauthorized electronic debit, a transaction in 
an incorrect amount, and failure to provide required identification of 
transactions.
    Prompt resolution of errors is an important consumer protection, 
but the detailed procedures prescribed by the act and regulation pose a 
potentially difficult compliance problem for off-line accountable 
stored-value systems. Investigation and resolution of errors in 
accordance with Regulation E would be complicated and costly.
    After weighing the potential costs against the consumer's need for 
these protections, the Board proposes to exempt off-line accountable 
stored-value systems from application of the error resolution 
procedures and also from the related requirement to mail an annual 
notice describing them. Initial disclosures would inform consumers that 
they bear the full risk of loss in case of lost or stolen cards, if 
that is the case, and would summarize any error resolution procedures 
available.
    The Board requests specific comment on whether, alternatively, some 
minimal error resolution procedures should be required. For example, an 
error within the financial institution's control, such as one resulting 
from a malfunctioning card, may not be unduly difficult to correct. 
Commenters are also asked to address whether, if no error resolution 
requirements are imposed, the initial disclosures should include a 
statement that there are no error resolution procedures available to 
the consumer.
    7. De minimis exclusion. In addition to the modifications presented 
above, the Board proposes a de minimis exclusion for off-line 
accountable stored-value systems based on the maximum balance that can 
be stored on the card or other device. For a stored-value product 
limited to a relatively small amount of funds, the amount at risk would 
be sufficiently minimal that application of even modified Regulation E 
protections appears unnecessary. This provision would apply to off-line 
accountable devices that are limited to a maximum of $100 at a given 
time; such devices would be completely exempt from Regulation E.
B. Off-line ``Unaccountable'' Stored-Value Systems
    As described above, off-line unaccountable stored-value systems are 
those in which the card balances and transaction data are maintained 
only on the card itself. Transaction data may be maintained for a 
limited time at merchant terminals, but are not captured or maintained 
by the issuer or a central database. Photocopier cards and farecards 
for the mass transit systems in some cities are examples of such cards. 
Under the proposed amendments, off-line unaccountable stored-value 
systems would not be covered by Regulation E. The proposed amendments 
do not provide an explicit exemption; instead, the definitions of 
systems that would be covered under the proposal do not capture off-
line unaccountable systems.
    Most off-line unaccountable systems currently involve small dollar 
amounts and a single use, such as paying transit fares. Other proposed 
systems, however, could involve substantially larger transaction 
amounts and maximum card values, and could have multiple uses. These 
features may make such a system more comparable to traditional debit 
cards than the small-value cards, in terms of potential uses by 
consumers. This being the case, the Board could consider whether to 
exercise its authority under the EFTA (to provide uniform protections 
for all equivalent consumer EFT services) by proposing to bring off-
line unaccountable systems within the coverage of the act. If the 
requirements applicable to off-line unaccountable stored-value systems 
were the same as those that the Board is proposing with regard to off-
line accountable systems--initial disclosures, with an exemption for 
card values of $100 or less--compliance would not be particularly 
costly or difficult. Since the concern about consumer protection would 
exist primarily for systems that store substantial amounts on a card, 
any proposal could be framed in terms of covering only those cards with 
a maximum value of more than a certain amount.
    Although some off-line stored-value systems that permit larger 
maximum card values may fall within the

[[Page 19702]]

unaccountable category, it is not clear that such systems would operate 
in this manner at all times and with respect to all transactions. As 
systems are further developed, they could evolve into systems that 
capture and maintain some transactions in a location other than on 
cards and at merchant terminals. If so, the Board believes such systems 
could be characterized as off-line accountable, rather than off-line 
unaccountable, systems, and thus would be subject to the same set of 
rules.
    There is some risk that the application of Regulation E to off-line 
accountable stored-value systems, but not to off-line unaccountable 
systems, could act as an incentive for developers of stored-value 
systems to structure systems as unaccountable in order to avoid being 
covered under the regulation. It is not desirable to have system design 
be guided by regulatory rather than economic considerations. However, 
the requirements applicable to off-line accountable systems--initial 
disclosures--are so minimal when compared to other factors that could 
affect system design (for example, the transaction data collected in 
accountable systems may be useful for various purposes including fraud 
detection and marketing) that it seems unlikely the potential for 
coverage by Regulation E would have much impact.
    On balance, the Board believes that it is preferable to state that 
off-line unaccountable cards are not covered by Regulation E. The Board 
solicits specific comment, however, on whether the distinction between 
off-line accountable and off-line unaccountable systems (especially 
high-value ones) reaches the right result, in light of the 
considerations discussed above, and accordingly on whether the Board 
should consider coverage of off-line unaccountable systems, under very 
limited requirements such as initial disclosures. The Board also 
solicits comment on whether, if Regulation E coverage were extended to 
off-line unaccountable systems, it would be preferable in defining the 
scope of coverage to focus on the value capable of being stored, on 
whether the system has multiple uses, or on both of these features.
C. ``On-line'' Stored-Value Systems
    The third type of stored-value system in some respects resembles 
off-line accountable stored-value systems, and in others resembles 
traditional deposit accounts accessed by debit cards. As in off-line 
accountable stored-value systems, data about individual card balances 
and transactions (including merchant identification, amount, date, and 
card number) are collected and maintained at centralized locations; and 
the value associated with a card is limited to an amount that the 
consumer chooses, not a fluctuating balance in the consumer's checking 
or savings account.
    As in traditional deposit accounts accessed by debit cards, these 
stored-value systems operate on-line. When a card is used at an ATM or 
a POS terminal, the transaction is authorized by means of on-line 
communication with a financial institution or central data facility. 
The balance of funds available to the consumer is not recorded on the 
card itself, as in off-line stored-value systems; instead, the balance 
information is maintained only at the data facility. In this respect 
too, an on-line stored-value system is the functional equivalent of a 
deposit account accessed by a debit card, and thus can be viewed as 
representing a consumer asset account for Regulation E purposes, 
subject to coverage by the regulation.
    In general, compliance with Regulation E requirements does not 
appear to be a significant problem. For example, because these systems 
operate on-line, they are designed to block unauthorized access, and 
compliance with the limitations on consumer liability for unauthorized 
transactions should not be more burdensome than for a traditional 
deposit account accessed by debit card. However, a few exceptions from 
particular provisions of Regulation E may be appropriate, as presented 
below.
    1. Exceptions for periodic statements and annual error resolution 
notices. Regulation E requires statements that detail account activity. 
In some on-line stored-value systems, cards are not reloadable, but 
instead are meant to be discarded after the funds associated with the 
card are drawn down to zero. For example, a consumer may purchase a 
card for use on a trip of a few weeks, and draw down all value tied to 
the card within that time. In such cases, the potentially short-term 
nature of the product and the lack of an ongoing account relationship 
may make periodic statements unnecessary.
    As an alternative to the periodic statement requirement, an issuer 
could provide account balances and account histories upon request, for 
the preceding one or two months. This treatment would parallel the 
exception adopted by the Board under the rules applicable to EBT 
systems. (See 59 FR 10678, March 7, 1994, codified at 12 CFR 
Sec. 205.15.) This alternative documentation would not appear to be 
unduly burdensome, because cardholders who have used up the value 
associated with the card will presumably not request an account 
history. For similar reasons, the Board believes that it would be 
appropriate to propose exempting these systems from the requirement to 
send annual notices summarizing error resolution procedures. Again, if 
the card is used and discarded within a year, this annual notice would 
serve little purpose.
    It may also be appropriate to propose an exemption from the 
periodic statement requirement for on-line stored-value systems 
involving cards that are reloadable. Since the stored value is 
accessible only through use of the card itself (not, for example, by 
check), then periodic statements may be unnecessary. If a consumer 
receives a receipt for each transaction, periodic statements may not be 
needed even if the relationship between the consumer and the issuer is 
ongoing. If the consumer needed to check on recent account 
transactions, the consumer could request the issuer to provide an 
account history.
    There may be less reason to exempt reloadable on-line cards from 
the annual error resolution notice requirement. If a card issuer has an 
ongoing relationship with the consumer, sending the annual notice does 
not seem burdensome. However, extending the exemption to both 
requirements--periodic statements and the annual error notice--
regardless of whether a card is reloadable, would avoid making the 
proposed rule overly complex.
    Accordingly, the Board proposes to provide that on-line stored-
value systems are not subject to (1) the periodic statement 
requirement, but may instead provide the account balance and 
transaction history to the cardholder upon request; or (2) the 
requirement for an annual reminder of error resolution procedures. The 
Board solicits comment on whether the proposed modifications should be 
different for on-line stored-value cards that are reloadable.
    2. Change-in-terms notices. Under Regulation E, if terms or 
conditions required to be disclosed (such as limits on transfers, or 
transaction fees) were to change from those initially in effect, the 
institution must generally notify the consumer at least 21 days before 
the effective date of the change.
    For the reasons discussed in connection with off-line accountable 
stored-value products, the Board believes that the change-in-terms 
notice requirements need not apply to on-line accountable stored-value 
products and, accordingly, proposes to exempt them from this 
requirement. Specific comment is solicited on whether there

[[Page 19703]]

might be circumstances in which the notice requirement should apply.
    3. De minimis exclusion. Some on-line stored-value systems may make 
relatively small amounts accessible through use of the card. For 
example, a number of prepaid telephone card systems apparently operate 
on-line. As in the case of off-line accountable stored-value systems, 
if the amount associated with a consumer's card is limited to a 
relatively small amount, application of Regulation E protections such 
as the limitation on the consumer's liability for unauthorized 
transactions seems less important. And if transaction amounts are on 
average quite small (as is likely to be true if the maximum amount on a 
card is low), the cost impact of Regulation E compliance would be 
proportionately greater than for systems involving large transactions. 
For these reasons, the Board proposes to exempt on-line stored-value 
systems completely from coverage under Regulation E if the maximum 
amount that can be associated with a card is limited to $100.
Computer Network Payment Products
    Parallel to the development of stored-value card products, there 
has been an increasing interest in other products that might adopt 
stored-value concepts. Systems are being proposed, for example, for 
making payments over computer networks, such as the Internet. In these 
cases, a balance of funds could be accessed via a consumer's personal 
computer, and transferred or used in purchases via a computer network. 
As in the case of card-based products, there is a range of network 
payment products in operation or under development.
    Some of these network payment products involve on-line access to a 
consumer account in a financial institution, and thus are fully subject 
to Regulation E. Other products may involve various procedures for 
authorizing and carrying out transactions, and may or may not be 
subject to the regulation. The Board requests specific comment on the 
extent to which the Board should consider proposing that Regulation E 
apply to various types of network payment products. In general, the 
Board believes that the same principles should apply to network payment 
products as to stored-value card products in analyzing coverage under 
Regulation E. For example, the Board might consider applying a de 
minimis exemption to network payment products in the same way the Board 
is proposing for stored-value card products.
Summary of Proposed Amendments for Stored-Value Systems
    To summarize, with respect to stored-value systems, the Board 
proposes to amend Regulation E to:
    (1) Exempt completely from Regulation E off-line unaccountable 
stored-value systems;
    (2) Exempt completely from Regulation E both off-line accountable 
stored-value systems and on-line stored-value systems if the maximum 
amount that can be stored on or associated with a card at any given 
time is $100 or less;
    (3) Establish modified requirements for coverage of off-line 
accountable stored-value systems, applying only the requirements 
relating to initial disclosures; and
    (4) Modify the requirements applicable to on-line stored-value 
systems, under which such systems would not be subject to (a) the 
periodic statement requirement, if an account balance and a summary of 
recent transactions is provided upon request; (b) the annual error 
resolution notice requirement; or (c) change-in-terms notices.

III. Form of Comment Letters

    Comment letters should refer to Docket No. R-0919. The Board 
requests that, when possible, comments be prepared using a standard 
courier typeface with a type size of 10 or 12 characters per inch. This 
will enable the Board to convert the text into machine-readable form 
through electronic scanning, and will facilitate automated retrieval of 
comments for review. Comments may also be submitted on computer 
diskettes, using either the 3.5'' or 5.25'' size, in any DOS-compatible 
format. Comments on computer diskettes must be accompanied by a paper 
version.

IV. Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    In accordance with section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
and section 904(a)(2) of the EFTA, the Board's Division of Research and 
Statistics has prepared an economic impact statement on the proposed 
regulation. A copy of the analysis may be requested from Publications 
Services, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Washington, 
DC 20551, or by telephone at (202) 452-3245.

V. Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with section 3506 of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 
1995 (44 U.S.C. Ch. 35; 5 CFR 1320 Appendix A.1), the Board reviewed 
the proposed rule under the authority delegated to the Board by the 
Office of Management and Budget. Comments on the collection of 
information should be sent to the Office of Management and Budget, 
Paperwork Reduction Project (7100-0200), Washington, DC 20503, with 
copies of such comments to be sent to Mary M. McLaughlin, Federal 
Reserve Board Clearance Officer, Division of Research and Statistics, 
Mail Stop 97, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 
Washington, DC 20551.
    The collection of information requirements in this proposed 
regulation are found in 12 CFR Part 205. This information would be 
mandatory (15 USC 1693 et seq.) to ensure adequate disclosure of basic 
terms, costs, and rights relating to electronic fund transfer (EFT) 
services affecting consumers using certain stored-value cards or home-
banking services and consumers exercising their error resolution rights 
under Regulation E. The respondents/recordkeepers are for-profit 
financial institutions, including small businesses. Regulation E 
applies to all types of financial institutions, not just state member 
banks. However, under Paperwork Reduction Act regulations, the Federal 
Reserve accounts for the burden of the paperwork associated with the 
regulation only for state member banks. Other agencies account for the 
Regulation E paperwork burden on their respective constituencies.
    The Federal Reserve has no data on which to estimate the burden the 
proposed requirements would impose on state member banks. With regard 
to stored-value cards, there are as yet no such systems in full 
operation in the United States, and only a few stored-value card pilot 
projects. It is difficult to predict how many state member banks will 
choose to offer these products and how many cards will be issued to 
consumers. However, because the proposed amendments include a number of 
exemptions for stored-value products from Regulation E requirements, 
the proposed amendments could have the effect of reducing paperwork 
burden, compared to what the burden would be without the amendments in 
place.
    The proposed amendments on the use of electronic communication in 
home banking would likely reduce the paperwork burden of financial 
institutions. Institutions offering home banking programs would be able 
to use electronic communication to provide disclosures, periodic 
statements, and other information required by Regulation E rather than 
having to print and mail the information in paper form.
    The proposed amendment relating to error resolution for new 
accounts may reduce paperwork burden, because institutions may be able 
to complete

[[Page 19704]]

error investigations within the longer time allowed under the proposal 
(20 business days), rather than have to provisionally credit consumer's 
accounts within ten business days and provide related notices to the 
consumer, as is required currently under Regulation E.
    The Federal Reserve requests comments from issuers, especially 
state member banks, that will help to estimate the number and burden of 
the various disclosures that would be made in the first year this 
regulation is effective. Comments are invited on: (a) the cost of 
compliance; (b) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of 
the information to be disclosed; and (c) ways to minimize the burden of 
disclosure on respondents, including through the use of automated 
disclosure techniques or other forms of information technology.

List of Subjects in 12 CFR Part 205

    Consumer protection, Electronic fund transfers, Federal Reserve 
System, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Text of Proposed Revisions

    Certain conventions have been used to highlight the proposed 
changes to Regulation E. New language is shown inside bold-faced 
arrows, while language that would be removed is set off with brackets.
    Pursuant to the authority granted in sections 904 (a), (c), and (d) 
of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. 1693b (a), (c), and (d), 
and for the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Board proposes to 
amend 12 CFR Part 205 as set forth below:

PART 205--ELECTRONIC FUND TRANSFERS (REGULATION E)

    1. The authority citation for Part 205 would be revised to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1693-1693r.

    2. Section 205.4 would be amended by adding paragraph (c) to read 
as follows:


Sec. 205.4  General disclosure requirements; jointly offered services.

* * * * *
    (c) Electronic communication. (1) Definition. For 
purposes of this part, the term electronic communication means an 
electronically transmitted text message between a consumer and a 
financial institution; in the case of a communication to the consumer, 
the message shall allow text to be displayed on equipment in the 
consumer's possession such as a modem-equipped personal computer or 
screen telephone.
    (2) Communication between financial institution and consumer. (i) 
By agreement between a financial institution and a consumer, either may 
send to the other by electronic communication any information required 
by this part to be provided orally or in writing. Information required 
by this part to be in writing and sent to a consumer by electronic 
communication shall be clear and readily understandable and shall be 
provided in a manner that would allow a consumer to retain the 
information.
    (ii) If this part specifies that information be provided to the 
consumer in writing, the consumer may request a paper copy of the 
information up to one year after receiving the electronic 
communication.
* * * * *
    3. Section 205.11 would be amended by revising paragraph (c)(3), to 
read as follows:


Sec. 205.11  Procedures for resolving errors.

* * * * *
    (c) Time limits and extent of investigation. * * *
* * * * *
    (3) Extension of time periods. The applicable time periods in this 
paragraph (c)(3) are 20 business days in place of 10 business days, and 
90 days in place of 45 days, if a notice of error involves an 
electronic fund transfer that:
    (i) Was not initiated within a state; [or]
    (ii) Resulted from a point-of-sale debit card transaction; 
or
    (iii) Involves a new account during the first 30 calendar days 
after the first deposit to the account is made.
* * * * *
    4. A new section 205.16 would be added, to read as follows:


Sec. 205.16  Certain stored-value services.

    (a) General. The rules in this section apply to stored-value 
accounts as defined in paragraph (b) of this section.
    (b) Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following 
definitions apply:
    (1) Off-line stored-value account means a balance of funds recorded 
on a card that a consumer may use at electronic terminals to obtain 
cash or purchase goods or services, where the record of such balance is 
also maintained on a separate database, apart from the card, and where 
on-line authorization of transactions is not required to access the 
funds. Off-line stored-value accounts are subject to the requirements 
in paragraph (d) of this section.
    (2) On-line stored-value account means a balance of funds that may 
be accessed only through the use of a card that a consumer may use at 
electronic terminals to obtain cash or purchase goods or services, 
where the record of such balance is maintained on a separate database, 
and not on the card, and where on-line authorization of transactions is 
required to access the funds. On-line stored-value accounts are subject 
to the requirements in paragraph (e) of this section.
    (3) Financial institution includes any person that, directly or 
indirectly, holds an on-line or off-line stored-value account, or that 
issues a card to a consumer for use in obtaining cash or purchasing 
goods or services by accessing such an account.
    (c) $100 exemption. A stored-value account, as defined in 
paragraphs (b) (1) and (2) of this section, is exempt from the 
requirements of this part if the maximum amount that may be in the 
account at any given time is $100 or less.
    (d) Modified requirements for off-line stored-value accounts; 
initial disclosures. Stored-value accounts as defined in paragraph 
(b)(1) of this section are subject only to the following initial 
disclosure requirements of this part, as applicable:
    (1) Liability of consumer. A summary of the consumer's liability, 
under state or other applicable law or agreement, for unauthorized 
transfers.
    (2) Types of transfers; limitations. The type of electronic fund 
transfers that the consumer may make and any limitations on the 
frequency and the dollar amount of transfers.
    (3) Fees. Any fees imposed by the financial institution for 
electronic fund transfers or for the right to make transfers.
    (4) Error resolution. A summary of the financial institution's 
procedures for resolving errors concerning electronic fund transfers, 
including the telephone number and address of the person or office to 
be notified in the event of an error.
    (e) Modified requirements for on-line stored-value accounts. 
Stored-value accounts as defined in paragraph (b)(2) of this section 
are subject to the requirements of this part, with the following 
modifications:
    (1) Exceptions; change-in-terms notice; error resolution notice. 
The account is exempt from the requirements of Sec. 205.8.
    (2) Alternative to periodic statement. A financial institution need 
not furnish the periodic statement required by Sec. 205.9(b) if the 
financial institution makes available to the consumer:

[[Page 19705]]

    (i) The consumer's account balance, through a readily available 
telephone line and at a terminal; and
    (ii) A written history of the consumer's account transactions that 
is provided promptly in response to an oral or written request and that 
covers at least 60 days preceding the date of a request by the 
consumer.
    (3) Additional modifications. A financial institution that does not 
furnish periodic statements, in accordance with paragraph (e)(2) of 
this section, shall comply with the following special rules:
    (i) Initial disclosures. The financial institution shall modify the 
disclosures under Sec. 205.7 by disclosing:
    (A) Account balance. The means by which the consumer may obtain 
information concerning the account balance, including a telephone 
number. This disclosure may be made by providing a notice substantially 
similar to the notice in paragraph A-6 of Appendix A of this part.
    (B) Written account history. A summary of the consumer's right to 
receive a written account history upon request, in place of the 
periodic-statement disclosure required by section 205.7(b)(6), and the 
telephone number to call to request an account history. This disclosure 
may be made by providing a notice substantially similar to the notice 
in paragraph A-6 of Appendix A of this part.
    (C) Error resolution. A notice concerning error resolution that is 
substantially similar to the notice contained in paragraph A-6 of 
Appendix A of this part.
    (ii) Limitations on liability. For purposes of Sec. 205.6(b)(3), 
regarding a 60-day period for reporting any unauthorized transfer that 
appears on a periodic statement, the 60-day period shall begin with the 
transmittal of a written account history provided to the consumer under 
paragraph (e)(2) of this section.
    (iii) Error resolution. The financial institution shall comply with 
the requirements of section 205.11 in response to an oral or written 
notice of an error from the consumer that is received no later than 60 
days after the consumer obtains the written account history, under 
paragraph (e)(2) of this section, in which the error is first 
reflected.
    5. Appendix A would be amended by adding an entry to the table of 
contents at the beginning of the appendix and by adding a new paragraph 
A-6, to read as follows:

Appendix A to Part 205--Model Disclosure Clauses and Forms

Table of Contents

* * * * *
A-6--Model Forms for On-Line Stored-Value Card Services 
(Sec. 205.16(e)(3))
* * * * *
A-6--Model Forms for On-Line Stored-Value Card Services 
(Sec. 205.16(e)(3))
    (1) Disclosure of information about obtaining account balances 
and account histories in on-line stored-value card service 
(Sec. 205.16(e)(3)(i) (A) and (B))

    You may find out about the balance remaining on your card by 
calling [telephone number]. You can also learn your remaining 
balance [by making a balance inquiry at an ATM] [on the receipt you 
get when withdrawing cash from an ATM] [on the receipt you get when 
making a purchase].
    You also have the right to get a written summary of transactions 
made with your card for the 60 days preceding your request by 
calling [telephone number].

    (2) Disclosure of error resolution procedures in on-line stored-
value card service (Sec. 205.16(e)(3)(i)(C))

    In Case of Errors of Questions About Your Card Transactions 
Telephone us at [telephone number] or Write us at [address] as soon 
as you can, if you think an error has occurred involving a 
transaction made with your card. We must hear from you no later than 
60 days after you receive a written summary of transactions (which 
you can request from us), showing the error. You will need to tell 
us:
     Your name and card number.
     Why you believe there is an error, and the dollar 
amount involved.
     Approximately when the error took place.
    If you tell us orally, we may require that you send us your 
complaint or question in writing within 10 business days. We will 
generally complete our investigation within 10 business days and 
correct any error promptly. In some cases, an investigation may take 
longer, but you will have the use of the funds in question after the 
10 business days. However, if we ask you to put your complaint or 
question in writing and we do not receive it within 10 business 
days, we may not credit the funds in question back to the card 
during the investigation.
    If we decide that there was no error, we will send you a written 
explanation within three business days after we finish our 
investigation. You may ask for copies of the documents that we used 
in our investigation.
    If you need more information about our error resolution 
procedures, call us at [telephone number] [the telephone number 
shown above]. 

    By order of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve 
System, April 19, 1996.
William W. Wiles,
Secretary of the Board.
[FR Doc. 96-10181 Filed 5-1-96; 8:45 a.m.]
BILLING CODE 6210-01-P


Last Updated 07/17/1999 communications@fdic.gov