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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

6th Circuit affirms no breach of contract for processing ACH transactions in order received

Courts Sixth Circuit Appellate ACH


On July 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision, holding that there was no breach of contract between a consumer and a bank arising from the order in which the bank processed automated clearing house (ACH) transactions against the consumer’s checking account. According to the opinion, the consumer brought two state law breach of contract claims against the bank alleging that the order in which the bank processed ACH transactions against his checking account resulted in eight initial overdraft fees. Addressing the first breach of contract claim, the appeals court rejected the consumer’s argument that the agreement required the bank to process ACH transactions in the order incurred by the consumer. According to the agreement, “transactions will be processed ‘as they occur on their effective date for the business day on which they are processed’”—not necessarily the actual date that the transaction was initiated. Under the ACH Guidelines, the “effective date” is the date when the merchant presents the transactions to the ACH Operator (the Federal Reserve). Specifically, the bank processed the transactions in the order presented in the Federal Reserve’s batch files. The 6th Circuit also rejected the consumer’s second breach of contract claim, which asserted that the bank’s initial debiting of eight overdraft fees violated the parties’ agreement. Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, the consumer was not required to pay more than five overdraft fees per day, and while the initial debiting of the eight charges constituted a breach, the next-business-day reversal eliminated any damages. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the bank.

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