Banking, credit card cartel so intoxicated by greed that their advocacy lobbyists just issued this…

October 7, 2009

Electronic Payments Coalition, the group funded by Visa Inc.,  MasterCard Worldwide and the major banks and credit card issuers (payment card networks and financial services companies) just issued this press release. Click here.

We disagree with it, including this key point:  The problem with cash discounts is that they don’t allow for different prices depending on the type of payment card used.  There are about one-hundred separate merchant interchange fees and it is nearly impossible to know what the cost is for each transaction. In other words, they prevent Visa and MasterCard from competing over the cost of acceptance. The same principle applies to the honor-all-cards rules, which prevent merchants from exercising a preference for lower-cost cards, thereby preventing competitive forces from placing downward pressure on interchange fees. Not to mention the condescending, patronizing attitude that credit card companies know better than merchants how to treat a merchant’s customers.

 

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PRNewswire release

Merchants Can Already Discount for Cash, But Don’t – So What Would H.R. 2382 Really Do?

Electronic Payments Coalition Unveils the Truth About Rep. Peter Welch’s Interchange Bill

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ — In advance of the October 8th hearing in the House Financial Services Committee on H.R. 2382, “The Credit Card Interchange Fees Act,” sponsored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), the Electronic Payments Coalition has issued the following statement:

“H.R. 2382 is one of the most egregious assaults on consumer protection that this country has seen in some time. Disguised as a measure to allow for cash discounts – something that is already allowed by federal law and by all card network contracts – the bill would instead open up the door for bait-and-switch advertising schemes, charging additional checkout fees at the register, and discrimination against certain card holders. The bill is chock full of provisions that mean one thing: consumers will pay more so merchants can pay less. Bottom line – retailers don’t want to pay their fair share for a service that brings them more sales and higher profits – and want their customers to pick up the tab instead.”

The Electronic Payments Coalition released today a document detailing the anti-consumer protection measures detailed in H.R. 2382. This document follows this statement.

Rep. Peter Welch’s H.R. 2382 – “The Credit Card Interchange Fees Act” – would…

Leave consumers vulnerable and unprotected against deceptive, bait-and-switch advertising.

Rep. Welch’s legislation would eliminate important consumer protections on how merchants are allowed to advertise their prices – restrictions that are in place expressly to protect consumers. This would allow retailers to promise one low price, then charge more – potentially a lot more – when the customer reaches the cash register. Consumers would be left unprotected, forced to pay the demanded price regardless of what was advertised – and retailers would profit unjustly from their dishonest schemes.

Leave consumers stranded at the checkout counter.

Imagine getting to the front of a long line at the grocery store, only to discover that the store doesn’t accept your alma mater’s credit card. Or they won’t accept the card that donates a few cents of every purchase to your favorite charity. This legislation allows merchants to pick and choose which cards they will accept – and which cards they won’t – with no advance warning to their customers.

Dramatically reduce – or eliminate – the card rewards programs that are used by 80% of American households.

H.R. 2382 would prohibit a slightly higher interchange rate for rewards cards – cards that are traditionally used by customers who are proven to spend more when they shop, in turn providing greater value to merchants. Unfortunately, merchants don’t want to pay for this benefit – and the result would be far fewer rewards for American consumers who value such programs. In fact, similar regulation in Australia has resulted in a 23% reduction in the value of rewards programs for consumers.”

Force businesses to disclose highly confidential financial information to the public and to their competitors.

H.R. 2382 would require every contract, rate agreement, and rule on merchant discount rates to be submitted to the Federal Reserve, which would then be responsible for publishing every bit of it. This would involve literally millions of documents, most containing highly sensitive financial information. The chaos that would result from the sheer volume of contracts – not to mention the compromised financial information – would be incredibly harmful to retailers and to financial institutions.

Falsely characterize interchange as a consumer fee, by requiring that it be disclosed on consumer statements.

It’s simple: consumers don’t pay for the cost of card acceptance. It’s a cost of doing business for merchants that accept cards. Despite this clear distinction, H.R. 2382 would force card issuers to print the amount of interchange, as well as the total amount various merchants paid for each charge – an amount that varies depending on what each merchant negotiated – on consumer’s credit or debit card statements. This is nonsensical, unrealistic, and would ultimately confuse consumers and the financial decisions they make.

About Electronic Payments Coalition

The Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC) includes credit unions, banks, and payment card networks that move electronic payments quickly and securely between millions of merchants and millions of consumers across the globe. EPC’s goal is to protect the value, innovation, convenience and competition in today’s growing electronic payments system. EPC educates policymakers, consumers, and the media on the system’s role economic growth, and the importance of protecting consumer choice and stability for the continued growth of global commerce. http://electronicpaymentscoalition.org/

SOURCE Electronic Payments Coalition

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MasterCard: Legislation Would Let Merchants Keep the Benefits of Card Acceptance But Make Consumers Pay the Price

June 6, 2009
[source: MasterCard Worldwide press release, June 4]

Purchase, NY, June 04, 2009MasterCard said today that legislation introduced today by U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), by exempting merchants from antitrust laws, would take away the fundamental protections that these laws provide consumers. This would result in less credit availability, along with higher prices and reduced benefits when Americans choose to use their credit or debit cards. Antitrust laws are designed to protect competition and consumers, but this bill would have the opposite effect.

Conyers’ legislation, H.R. 2695, would give merchants a special exemption from antitrust laws enabling them to engage in anticompetitive and collusive behavior when establishing the fees and terms applicable to accepting payment cards. The bill is part of an organized merchant campaign to shift their card acceptance costs to consumers, and does not require merchants to pass on any savings to consumers if they succeed in lowering these fees.

When similar legislation was considered last Congress, it stirred considerable controversy and was only narrowly approved by a deeply divided Judiciary Committee. In addition, a wide array of organizations from non-profits to community banks and credit unions to minority small businesses voiced their opposition. The Department of Justice also expressed concern about the bill indicating that its antitrust exemptions “would appear to be the type of naked collusion that the antitrust laws condemn as per se unlawful because such conduct lacks plausible benefits to competition.”

Experience demonstrates that consumers lose when merchants no longer pay their fair share for the valuable benefits they receive from accepting payment cards. This is precisely what happened in Australia when the government reduced interchange fees. Although it cut costs for merchants, many Australian consumers now pay more for their payment cards and receive less in return as a result of the government’s intervention. Furthermore, there is no evidence that merchants reduced prices for consumers as a result of the government’s intervention.

Both merchants and consumers benefit from the ability to use and accept electronic payments, and in today’s free market system, each pays a share of the cost of the service. The benefits and the cost of card payment services are now shared between merchants and consumers but the merchants behind the Conyers bill seek to retain the benefits while shifting the costs to consumers.

Finally, MasterCard noted that any serious discussion of these issues should wait for the results of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study ordered by Congress as part of the Credit CARD Act. Consumers stand to be severely damaged by government intervention and the findings of the GAO study may help avoid consumer harm that inevitably flows when merchants no longer pay their fair share for the benefits they receive.


How Visa and MasterCard Discriminate Against Millions of Merchants

July 7, 2008
As MasterCard provides an interchange fee limit of $50.00 for service station gasoline fill ups, the question is whether this is just for debit cards, or also for credit card transactions? Then, with many card limits of about $75.00, are motorist forced to resubmit their card to top off their tank and thus ring up even greater interchange fees? As for Visa, will they also be imposing an interchange fee limit on credit cards too?

While pleased to see that Visa and MasterCard are reacting to merchant revolts against the two giant card associations, it was especially consoling to notice that the Visa debit card limit was announced just hours after our planned rally against them. Nice timing, Visa!

The problem is that restructuring only a few interchange fees provokes even more questions. There are millions of retailers coerced to pay these supra competitive fees, yet the only relief now are for service stations, and for only gasoline purchases. What about our ScanMyPhotos.com and the millions of other retailers? We all want relief and if Visa and MasterCard can limit fees at the pumps, why not everywhere? The answer to this rhetorical question is that they are giant cartels that have a monology and can do whatever they want…. until now.

The interchange fee limits at the pumps do not address the issues of other skyrocketing inflationary costs on other products and services.

 



“MasterCard Statement on the Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2008” (via MasterCard press release)

March 8, 2008

[Click here to view MasterCard Worldwide press release.  Reprinted in its entirety].

Purchase, NY, March 06, 2008The electronic payments system benefits merchants and consumers because it is a highly efficient and secure way to increase sales and consumer satisfaction. The system was developed in the highly competitive marketplace of merchants, banks, payment networks and consumers. This legislation is an attempt by merchants and the Merchants Payments Coalition to put in place price controls, which will harm competition and the card products and services offered to consumers.

MasterCard believes there is no need for government intervention, and that it would be inappropriate for the U.S. government to set prices and negotiate the terms of contracts for private commercial entities. Such policy decisions in the past have proven to be unworkable, unpopular and detrimental to the free market economy. There is no evidence that demonstrates that such price controls will result in savings passed along to consumers. To the contrary, we believe such moves negatively impact consumer choice.

We will continue to work with our customers and other industry organizations, like the Electronic Payments Coalition, American Bankers Association, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, Independent Community Bankers of America, and the American Financial Services Association, to help members of Congress enhance their understanding of how interchange brings benefits to millions of consumers and merchants around the world.

For more information on Interchange, go to: http://www.mastercard.com/us/company/en/ourcompany/interchange.html