Henry Helgeson, CEO of Merchant Warehouse is wrong on electronic payment interchange #swipefees

February 22, 2011

CardLine’s PaymentSource quoted Henry Helgeson, CEO of a processing company called Merchant Warehouse, Inc. where he spouted the same old invalid argument that giant banks want American’s, Congress and the Federal Reserve to believe merchants will not pass on to their customers the billions in savings from the new Durbin lower debit fees.

Surprisingly, Mr. Helgeson acknowledges that his company WILL
pass on to its merchant customers the lower debit fees, even though they
are not required to.  As a merchant (retail and eCommerce business owner) I am perplexed that Mr. Helgeson would risk his entire company, his merchant customers and perhaps soon-to-be former customers by taking sides with the giant banks by spouting their propaganda.  MasterCard and Visa’s member banks reap nearly $62 billion dollars a year from these merchant interchange swipe fees, which were designed forty years ago to cover antiquated carbon copy analog payment network.

Unlike the electronic payment network member banks which are without real competition (MasterCard and Visa wield 80% market power), merchants will all be compelled to rebate all saved interchange fees.  Merchants will not JUST lower prices, but we will hire more employees, invest in infrastructure and transparently benefit the economy rather than just the banks’ vaults.  Even so, the legal argument is being clouded by the bank’s multi-million dollar advocacy campaign.  The last thing Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and thousands of other banks want you to know is that the argument is not about refunding savings to consumers, but rather it is all about anticompetitive illegal price-fixing.

As a lead plaintiff, suing MasterCard, Visa and major banks in what could be the largest anti-trust litigation in our nation’s history, I have been leading the battle against them for half a decade. For news and commentary updates follow WayTooHigh.com and Twitter

Mitch Goldstone
President & CEO

Media Statement – Visa Statement Regarding the Canadian Code of Conduct – Yahoo! Finance

April 19, 2010

[And Visa, too. Interesting that the same banks that owned Visa own MasterCard; the two giant credit card association (which say they are independent) regularly act as if they are operating from the same corner office]


TORONTO, April 16 /CNW/ – Visa supports the Canadian government’s goal to encourage transparency and merchant choice within the payments marketplace – two important pillars on which Visa has built its business domestically and internationally.

Visa already provides merchants much of what today’s Code of Conduct requests payment networks offer, such as full transparency of interchange rates, merchant choice on acceptance of Visa Debit cards, and the ability of merchants to offer discounts for other methods of payment. We appreciate the government’s inclusion of all payment networks to ensure merchants are equally informed through a level playing field.

via Media Statement – Visa Statement Regarding the Canadian Code of Conduct – Yahoo! Finance.

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NRF Urges Dodd to Address Swipe Fees in Bill (via CSP)

March 16, 2010

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation (NRF) expressed disappointment that a wide-ranging financial services reform bill unveiled earlier this week by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) does not address the $48 billion in credit-card swipe fees paid by merchants and their customers each year.

“Chairman Dodd’s bill takes many steps to curb the excesses of the financial services industry, but the failure to address swipe fees is a glaring omission,” NRF senior vice president and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “These fees drive up prices for the average family by hundreds of dollars every year and depress the ability of main street merchants to thrive and grow.”

“Financial services reform isn’t complete without swipe fee reform,” Duncan said. “Chairman Dodd has acknowledged the impact of these fees on consumers in the past, and we hope to see them addressed in the final version of this legislation.”

Visa and MasterCard banks charge merchants a fee called interchange each time one of their cards is swiped to pay for a purchase. With the fee averaging about 2%, “swipe fee” collections totaled $48 billion in 2008, triple the $16 billion collected when NRF began tracking the fees in 2001. Visa and MasterCard rules effectively force merchants to pass the fees on to consumers by requiring them to be included in the advertised price of merchandise and making discounts for cash, checks or cheaper forms of plastic difficult. As a result, the average household paid an estimated $427 in higher prices in 2008, up from $159 in 2001.

Dodd included a provision in last year’s Credit CARD Act requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of interchange fees. The study concluded that credit-card swipe fees have been increasing despite card industry claims that they have remained steady, that the fees drive up prices for consumers and that consumers could see lower prices if they were reduced. Dodd has also said that he would consider legislation barring Visa and MasterCard placing restrictions on merchants’ ability to offer a discount for cheaper forms of payment such as cash, checks and debit cards.

Three major bills that would address swipe fees are pending in Congress. H.R. 2695, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Senate companion bill S. 1212, sponsored by Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) would require Visa and MasterCard banks to negotiate with merchants over the fees rather than continuing to impose them on a unilateral basis. H.R. 2382, the Credit Card Interchange Act, sponsored by Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would require increased transparency, give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority to prohibit interchange practices that violate consumer protection or anticompetition laws and make cash discounts easier.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, convenience stores, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees—about one in five American workers—and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.

Read more

PBS Frontline: The Card Game

November 24, 2009

Complete info on the PBS Frontline segment called: The Card Game”

Click here to watch

“As credit card companies face rising public anger, new regulation from Washington and staggering new rates of default and bankruptcy, FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates the future of the massive consumer loan industry and its impact on a fragile national economy.”

THE FIGHT OVER INTERCHANGE FEES: “Interchange fees are now the central issue in what is being called the largest private antitrust litigation in U.S. history.  Five years ago, Mitch Goldstone, an independent owner of scanmyphotos.com, an online photo service company, was struggling to keep his Southern California shop afloat. He began scrutinizing every expense and revenue stream of his small business. When he realized that an already costly expense — interchange fees – was increasing, he was livid.  “It got to the point where I had just a few employees and things were looking really bleak,” said Goldstone. “Interchange fees were the one expense that was going up, no matter what I did.”  In 2005, Goldstone (PDF) and more than 30 other merchants filed antitrust lawsuits in U.S District Court against Visa, MasterCard and several of their member banks, accusing them of breaching federal antitrust law by fixing the prices on interchange fees.”

  • Tricks and Traps of the Card Game
  • Credit Unions
  • Why Not Cap Interest Rates?
  • The Military’s War on Debt
  • The Changes Ahead
  • Pending Legislation
  • Is a New Agency Needed?
  • The Changing Landscape
  • Payday Loans — A Primer
  • The Industry’s Lobbying & Financial Clout
  • The Fight Over Interchange Fees
  • A New Consumer Protection Agency?
  • What’s the Consumer’s Responsibility?
  • South Korea: A Nation Living Off Credit
  • Europe’s Credit/Debt Situation

  • Now that we own the banks, end merchant credit card interchange fees

    February 19, 2009

    During this unprecedented global financial meltdown , the United States and its citizens now own a sizable  share of major financial institutions.  The question is, why aren’t we demanding that our ownership stake in the banks force them to eliminate those unfair and anticompetitive merchant interchange fees?

    To help win over credibility among merchants and consumers, the banks, along with MasterCard and Visa should be forced to move forward and reevaluate their long standing unbridled market power – every time a consumer uses an electronic payment credit or debit card.  We own the banks and we should be running them too.   

    The crippled banking institution has achieved what MasterCard and Visa warned (about themselves) in their SEC IPO filings – they are becoming insolvent. The nearly $60 billion in annual merchant interchange fees and Visa and MasterCard’s merchant discount money grab must end and now is the time.

    Think of what these billions in erroneous fees could do if put back in the hands of retailers and consumers, rather than funneled to Visa, MasterCard and its mismanaged member banks? 

    The banks are failing us.  The government bailout proceeds are being blanketed to many far reaching overflowing pockets, like the scores of law firms that are battling millions of retailers over the merchant interchange fee antitrust litigation. It has now been about four years since launching the class-action antitrust litigation; millions of dollars have been spent to defend this unfair fee on Americans, but now that we are paying the bank’s legal fees and effectively suing ourselves, it’s time to draw more attention to and ask more questions.

    [The U.S. government injected 45 billion taxpayer dollars into Bank of America and Citigroup, two of the named defendants in the merchant interchange litigation.  And, more than $400 billion to cover the banks’ losses – $60 billion would go a long way to cover these fees].

    If You Thought The Madoff Scandal Was Large, Look at Visa and MasterCard Fees

    February 4, 2009

    Visa’s earnings are up 35%, when the global economy is depressed. The credit card giant even had a 17% increase in its revenues.  This at a time when merchants are going bankrupt and some of the credit card association’s member banks are defaulting or being nationalized by the U.S. Government, yet both credit card companies are shining.


    During the past four years, along with many others, I have been exhaustively blowing the whistle and calling attention to the banks anti-competitive and illegal price fixing of the merchant interchange fees. As the nation looks for ways to remedy the fiscal crisis through tax refunds and billions in new spending, the best and most instant solution is to force MasterCard and Visa to end its unbridled market power and cease its interchange fees, which is nothing more than an antiquated pricing model that has little relevance today. The nation could instantly benefit by putting the nearly $60 billion in fees paid by U.S. consumers and merchants back into our pockets, rather than into the highly mismanaged and arrangant banks’ vaults.  Forget the banks’ Vegas trips and charter jets, look instead at the interchange fees for real savings. Redirecting the interchange fees and Visa and MasterCard’s collusive merchant discount fees could immediately help the economy recover.

    After reading today’s House Financial Services subcommittee meeting with Harry Markopolos, a private fraud investigator from Boston, I was reminded why this case is so important.  Just as Mr. Markopolos blew the whistle nine years ago and nobody listened, I began blowing the whistle and calling attention to the illegal price fixing and anti-competitive credit card fees back in early 2005.  Today, the class-action litigation is nearing class certification and it remains as perhaps the largest antitrust litigation in U.S. history.

    I see the role of the lead plaintiffs in this litigation as a cross between Erin Brokovich and Harry Markopolos, and we will prevail.