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DESCRIPTIVE STATEMENT – A bank account summary that contains information concerning one or more entries for which no separate item is enclosed. ACH entries necessitate some form of descriptive statement unless a substitute enclosure document is produced by the financial institution. Minimum reporting requirements are defined by Regulation E.

Under the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Regulation E, financial institutions must send statements to customers for each monthly cycle in which an electronic fund transfer (EFT) has occurred. Specific examples of an EFT under Reg E include debit card and ATM transactions, as well as automatic clearing house (ACH) and non-operator-assisted telephone transfers. If no EFT has occurred, only quarterly statements are necessary.

Descriptive Statement and Regulation E

The U.S. Federal Reserve issued Regulation E to help implement the Electronic Funds Transfers Act, which the U.S. Congress passed in 1978 to protect consumers. The Consumer Financial Protection Act is another piece of regulation with a similar purpose. This act led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which centralized the regulation of many financial products and services. Both originated in the wake of the housing market collapse of the late 2000s, with the mission to protect consumers from fraudulent and/or overly aggressive behavior from banks and other financial institutions.

The majority of Regulation E outlines procedures that consumers must follow when they report errors in regards to EFTs, along with the subsequent steps a bank must take to provide recourse. Such errors could include the consumer’s receiving of an incorrect amount of money from an ATM, unauthorized debit card activity, or an unauthorized wire transfer. Regulation E also outlines consumer responsibility for reporting unauthorized ETF activity (usually involving a stolen or missing card).

Descriptive Statement and Examples of Transactions

As noted above, types of transactions listed on a descriptive statement can include include debit card and ATM transactions, as well as ACH and non-operator-assisted telephone transfers. Common debit card transactions listed could include small payments at local shops or other vendors; ATM transactions might mention withdrawals at certain physical machine locations, while an ACH transaction could involve payroll.

Increasingly, banks will send descriptive statements via email due to the rise in online banking. While more efficient this can also lead to additional cybersecurity threats. Consumers must take care to protect their sensitive data from hackers with complex passwords, password managers, and other forms of security.


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