Forcing Industry to Do the Right Thing
Two related news items caught my attention today. The first of these was an article in the Washington Post about reducing limits on overdraft protection fees. The second of these was pending legislation limiting tarmac delays to less than 3 hours. These are not new issues; they have been hanging over the heads of the banking industry and airline industries for many, many years… Too many, if you do any flying or banking. My “WTF” moment came when I realized that it sometimes takes an act of congress to force organizations to make decisions that really benefit everyone (or serious threat of legislative action in the case of the banking changes). How is this possible? I thought the free market was supposed to right these kinds of wrongs.
How is it that an organization implements such barbaric policies on the very people they claim to serve? How do such policies continue after the first time they come to light? It is not like there were a dearth of stories about passengers stranded on air planes for excruciating periods of time (isn’t it called unlawful restraint or kidnapping when other people do it?). The abuses in overdraft protection fees have also been well publicized (I am pretty sure that it is called loan-sharking when individuals do what banks do). So why did organizations wait until the decision was nearly ripped from their hands?
I can think of a few reasons. Ultimately, the biggest culprit is lack of leadership in these organizations. A leader would have identified these issues as damaging to their images and perhaps even unethical. One way or another, a true leader would have made these issues a priority.
Perhaps it is telling that both f these industries have found themselves the beneficiaries of public life support. Leaders, get the job done, or move out of the way.