Talking ATM History: Litigation Plays a Role

This post about the role of litigation in Talking ATM history is part of an ongoing series on the history of the advocacy and technology behind Talking ATMs. A short summary of all articles in this series is available by selecting the Talking ATM History link on the Categories Page of this website.

Simplified Summary of this Document


Introduction

Structured Negotiations have been responsible for 20 Talking ATM settlement agreements, including agreements with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, American Express, Bank One (Chase) and First Union (Wachovia).

But Structured Negotiations were not the only legal strategy used by blind advocates interested in expanding Talking ATM installations in the United States. In this post you can read about successful Talking ATM litigation that increased the numbers of Talking ATMs in the United States.

Litigation also played another role in the history of Talking ATMs. On at least two occasions, the blind community was forced to object to class action settlements that did not fairly address the issue of accessible ATMs. Read about objections to class action settlements that threatened Talking ATM advocacy.

Successful Talking ATM Litigation

ATM Vendor Diebold commits to Talking ATMs

The Talking ATMs installed by banks in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s were primarily manufactured by ATM vendors Diebold and NCR. In November of 2000, one year after the country’s first Talking ATM was installed, Diebold and the National Federation of the Blind announced a plan to develop cost-effective Talking ATMs. Read the NFB / Diebold press release. This effort, handled by NFB counsel Dan Goldstein, helped raise awareness about the need for Talking ATMs and increased the number of installed Talking ATMs. Today, all major ATM vendors offer Talking ATMs.

Banknorth Brings Talking ATMs to Vermont, Maine

In April, 2002, NFB announced another Talking ATM settlement, this one with Northeast regional bank Banknorth. Banknorth agreed to install Talking ATM at its locations in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and neighboring states.

Cardtronics agrees to Talking ATMs

In 2007, Cardtronics, the largest ATM owner in the United States, announced that it had settled a long-standing lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the NFB. Negotiated by NFB Counsel Dan Goldstein and Denver civil rights firm Fox and Robertson, the agreement, which ended years of hard-fought litigation, called for installation of over 25,000 Talking ATMs across the United States.

Class Action Settlements that Threatened Talking ATM progress

Cell Phones instead of Talking ATMs?

In 2001, PNC Bank announced a proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed in 1999 about the accessibility of their ATMs. The proposed settlement? PNC would provide cell phones to blind customers, who could call the bank when they went to an ATM. Somehow the person on the other end of the phone was supposed to walk the customer through her or his transactions. Understandably, Talking ATM advocates saw this as a giant step backward, and organized the blind community in opposition to the proposed settlement.

In October, 2001, objections to the settlement were filed by the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and co-counsel Linda Dardarian on behalf of the American Council of the Blind, six ACB state affiliates, and 15 individual blind Talking ATM advocates. These individuals and organizations had all served as Claimants in successful Structured Negotiations efforts that had resulted in Talking ATM installations.

The objection strategy was successful. In March 26, 2003 PNC announced that it had discontinued its cell phone program and that it would be installing Talking ATMs.

Texas Showdown to Save Talking ATMs

In 2001, Talking ATM advocates, again represented by Linda Dardarian and the Law Office of Lainey Feingold, also had to file objections to a proposed settlement with 7-Eleven as a result of a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Dallas. In that case, the proposed settlement would have prevented any suits against 7-Eleven for access issues in any store in the U.S. 7-Eleven had both ATMs and more sophisticated financial service kiosks known as Vcoms in stores across the country, but the settlement did not require that a single one of them talk.

Had the 7-Eleven proposed settlement been approved, it would have threatened Structured Negotiations with that company that were in their infancy. After a Dallas hearing that extended for two days, the Judge agreed that the settlement was not fair to blind 7-Eleven customers. 7-Eleven subsequently signed an agreement to make its Vcom machines talk. Read the 7-Eleven Talking Vcom Settlement. American Express also signed a Talking ATM agreement as a result of Structured Negotiations for its ATMs, most of which were, at that time, located in 7-Eleven stores. Read the American Express Talking ATM agreement. As of 2009, 7-Eleven’s ATMs are owned by Cardtronics and are part of the settlement in that litigation.

Simplified Summary

This is a post about how law suits were used to get more Talking ATMs in the United States. Banknorth, Diebold, and Cardtronics settled lawsuits that resulted in Talking ATMs. Other lawsuits were settled in a manner that was not fair to blind people. Blind activists challenged those lawsuits and were successful in throwing them out of court. [Back to Introduction]