Click here to read the April 8th Wall Street Journal “Letter to the editor” from Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), Chairman House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Chris Cannon (R., Utah), Ranking Member House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.
In the Journal’s March 29 editorial, “Credit-Card Wars,” you note that, “as consumers we’d like to see interchange fees come down too, but through market innovation and competition, not Congressional fiat.” We agree. That’s why we introduced the bipartisan Credit Card Fair Fee Act: It facilitates direct negotiations between merchants and the credit card industry on interchange fees.
This approach is necessary because of concerns about coordinated price fixing among issuers leading to less competition and higher rates. For example, Visa has increased the average interchange rate 17% (26 basis points) in recent years despite dramatically improved processing technology and rapidly rising card volume. As the Journal notes, “Economies of scale should be driving [interchange] fees down, as in most other service-fee industries.”
In fact, Americans pay nearly three times as much on average as Europeans in credit-card interchange fees for the same set of services — nearly 2% of every retail purchase. This amounts to nearly $36 billion imposed on consumers through higher retail prices. And the interchange fee is the largest credit-card fee of all — dwarfing credit-card late fees, over-the-limit fees, balance transfer fees, annual fees, inactivity fees, penalty interest fees, and even ATM bank fees.
Yet the editorial says the market will ride to the rescue and bring down excessive credit-card interchange fees. That is unlikely unless there are negotiations and proceedings as set forth in our legislation. In an economy in which, as the Journal notes, credit transactions are now king and cash has been dethroned, how can the vast majority of merchants turn down plastic from the two major credit-card companies, who control approximately 80% of the market?
We introduced the Credit Card Fair Fee Act to create an open and transparent environment that doesn’t exist today, one that will not only spur the major credit-card companies to negotiate fairly on interchange but also to provide the opening for lower-cost interchange credit-card brands. Our bill would lead to competitive market-based interchange rates and terms.
Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.)
House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Chris Cannon (R., Utah)
House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law