NACSTV — April 26, 2010 — NACS, the association for convenience and petroleum retailing, delivered a record-setting number of consumer signatures to Congress on April 27, telling them that hidden credit and debit card swipe fees are unacceptable and that Congress must fix a clearly broken system. Learn more at http://www.fightswipefees.com
The National Association of Convenience Stores has released an interactive cartoon designed to educate consumers about the problem of credit and debit card swipe fees with the hope of involving them in a solution. Called interchange fees by the banks that set the rates, swipe fees are a percentage of each transaction that Visa and MasterCard and their member banks collect from retailers every time a credit or debit card is used. Fees average about 2 percent in the United States.
WASHINGTON – This week Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) unveiled a financial regulation overhaul bill that omits an important issue to convenience and petroleum retailers, consumers and small businesses in general: credit and debit card interchange (or “swipe”) fee reform.
Last year, Dodd announced his intention to draft legislation addressing the country’s outrageous interchange fees. It seemed to many that the broad financial overhaul bill would be a natural home for the swipe fee fix.
Retail groups in Washington, while disappointed that this issue was left out of the legislation, expressed a strong desire to work with Dodd and members of the Senate Banking Committee to address swipe fee reform.
“What we are seeing is merely the first draft of the legislation,” according to Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations. “This bill is far from complete and we can expect to see more iterations and many amendments offered as it moves through the Senate process. All of this tweaking could allow for swipe fee language to be included.”
“Financial services reform isn’t complete without swipe fee reform,” said Mallory Duncan, general counsel for the National Retail Federation. “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.”
Dodd’s legislation faces a tough road ahead — no Republicans are backing the bill yet, and numerous interest groups from the financial services industry are crying foul over provisions that either have been included or excluded. Dodd, however, is confident the bill will pass, although he recognizes some issues remain. “Over the last few months, Banking Committee members have worked together to try and produce a consensus package,” Dodd said. “Together we have made significant progress and resolved many of the items, but a few outstanding issues remain.”
The Hill reports that a full Senate Banking Committee markup is scheduled the week of March 22 and Senate Democrats are hoping to pass the bill before the Memorial Day recess.
Above content from NACSOnline; For more on card fees and what NACS is doing, visit the NACS Issue Page.
Hearing provided a critical opportunity to address the impact of hidden swipe fees and review possible solutions.
SACRAMENTO – Monday afternoon, California Assemblyman Pedro Nava, chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee, held an investigative hearing on the impact of hidden credit card swipe fees on California consumers and small businesses. Californians paid nearly $5 billion in swipe fees in 2008.
Small-business owners and advocates know that these hidden fees — which total more than credit card annual fees, cash advance fees, over-the-limit fees, and late fees combined – are crippling Main Street businesses and hurting their customers at a time when they can least afford it.
This hearing provided a critical opportunity to address the impact of hidden swipe fees and review possible solutions. The hearing is particularly notable both because of the size and impact of the California economy in the United States and because Visa’s headquarters are located in the state.
“This hearing is important, because it shows that Assemblyman Nava is listening to his constituents and that he recognizes, at a time when the economy is already so bad, that we can’t afford to let Visa, MasterCard, and the big banks rake in billions of dollars in hidden fees on the backs of small businesses and consumers,” said Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com, an Irvine, Calif.-based retail and online business that feels the impact of ever-increasing swipe fees every day.
“It’s also important that it’s happening in California. First, because we have such a large economy on our own, and reforms that start here often get picked up across the country. And second, because Visa is headquartered in California, this represents a dramatic signal to them that lawmakers are joining small businesses and our customers in saying ‘enough is enough,’” said Goldstone in a press release.
“Reforms are needed to create a transparent process for businesses to negotiate rates and enhance public awareness of interchange fees, which continue to increase,” testified Liz Garner of the Food Marketing Institute the hearing.
“Card companies and banks collect an interchange fee averaging about 2 percent on every credit and debit card transaction, and can raise the rates at any time by any amount,” she said. “We are working for a more competitive and transparent card system that works better for consumers and merchants alike, and hearings like this one are a critical step in that process.”
Credit card interchange fees squeezed American consumers and businesses to the tune of $48 billion in 2008. These hidden fees are set in secret by the banks and credit card companies and charged to store owners every time they run a customer’s credit card.
Americans pay the highest swipe fee rates in the industrialized world. On average, two dollars of every $100 a consumer spends using a credit card goes directly to the credit card industry. That adds up to $427 a year for every American household. Since 2001, the amount Americans pay in swipe fees has tripled.
Swipe fees are rising the fastest on gasoline purchases; payouts to the credit card industry have more than doubled since 2004.
Credit card companies and their member banks have increased the amount of swipe fees collected by both increasing rates and encouraging more people to pay by plastic instead of cash.
Many of those unsolicited mailings include so-called “convenience checks”that can be stolen and cashed by someone other than the authorized card holder. Yet the card companies and their banks spend only four percent of the swipe fees they collect on measures to protect consumers from this and other forms of credit card fraud.
Convenience stores across the nation, who are among the hardest hit by unfair swipe fees because of the fees assessed to gasoline sales, have taken action to alert their customers about these fees and are collecting millions of signatures urging Congress to reform the system. In addition, this website you are visiting (fightswipefees.com) makes it easy for consumers to sign an online petition to Congress or even send a letter directly to their representatives urging action to reform unfair swipe fees.
- H.R. 2965, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act and S. 1212, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act. These bills are very similar and each will allow merchants to come together and negotiate with the credit card companies and their banks swipe fee rates and acceptance terms. Similar legislation was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in 2008.
- H.R. 2382, the Credit Card Interchange Fees Act. This bill will repeal some of the rules imposed by credit card companies on merchants that are anti-competitive, empower the Federal Trade Commission to take further action if necessary and will require disclosure of swipe fee rates and rules.
- Government Accountability Office report on Rising Interchange Fees (PDF). This report confirms many of the most harmful aspects of unfair, hidden swipe fees. The report shows that the credit card companies and their issuing banks have been misleading the public about their increasing rates and about the benefits of credit cards to businesses. The report also outlines an unfair, anti-competitive system that hurts Main Street businesses and their customers in order to pad the banks’ bottom lines, with little relation to the actual costs of processing payments.
In addition, several national consumer organizations are urging Congress to take action. These include:
U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group). In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Edmund Mierzwinski (PDF), PIRG’s consumer program director, supported legislation to reform unfair swipe fees and said:
Interchange fees are hidden charges paid by all Americans, regardless of whether they use credit, debit, checks or cash. These fees impose the greatest hardship on the most vulnerable consumers – the millions of American consumers without credit cards or banking relationships. These consumers basically subsidize credit and debit card usage by paying inflated prices – prices inflated by the billions of dollars of anticompetitive interchange fees. And unfortunately, those interchange fees continue to accelerate, because there is nothing to restrain Visa and MasterCard from charging consumers and merchants more.
Markets don’t work when there are hidden fees and rules – and no one hides fees and rules better than the credit card companies. Credit card markets lack the information necessary for both consumers and merchants to make informed choices. For merchants, the markets lack adequate information because the associations prevent merchants from accurately informing consumers of the costs of credit card acceptance or attempting to direct them to more efficient and lower priced payment mechanisms. In fact, merchants have no alternative but to accept the card associations’ cards even when the associations significantly increase prices.
via NACS Press Release
NACS launches phase two of a consumer petition campaign to tell Congress, ‘’Stop unfair credit card fees.’
ALEXANDRIA, VA – More than 8,000 retail stores have signed up as part of the biggest consumer petition drive in American history. These retailers and their customers are telling Congress, “It’s time to reform unfair credit/debit card swipe fees.” Now, NACS is empowering other retailers to join the campaign by visiting www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees.This fall, 7-Eleven franchisees delivered nearly 1.7 million customer signatures to Congress — the largest number of signatures collected for a public policy issue in history — urging members to “Stop unfair credit card fees.”
Beginning December 15, NACS is coordinating an unprecedented campaign to generate millions more signatures from convenience customers, encouraging Congress to reform unfair credit and debit card interchange, or “swipe,” fees.
The campaign, the second phase of the industry’s consumer petition campaign, was announced on October 21 at the NACS Show in Las Vegas and immediately generated the participation of thousands of stores throughout the country,.
Both 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto and Alimentation Couche-Tard CEO Alain Bouchard, who led his company’s credit card interchange petition drive that collected 400,000-plus customer signatures at its Circle K stores, urged retailers to launch their own petition drive in their stores in a video introduced at the NACS Show.
NACS has made joining this effort easy. All the materials retailers need to participate in the latest petition campaign are available free of charge at http://www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees. These materials can be downloaded and sent to a local printer and then displayed in stores.
If you have not already signed up, visit www.nacsonline.com/fightswipefees today.
A new study by the Merchants Payments Coalition finds that Americans pay a much higher percentage for interchange charges than the rest of the industrialized world.
WASHINGTON, DC – A new study by the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) found that if U.S. consumers paid the same low credit and debit card swipe fees as consumers in Australia pay, then the net benefit would have totaled $125 billion over the last four years.
Interchange fees, or “swipe fees,” cost Americans an average of $2 on every $100 they spend with credit cards — a higher percentage than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Why? Because other countries and their governments have been able to negotiate with the big banks and credit card companies for fair rates and transparency, the MPC notes. NACS is one of the founding members of the MPC.
But, in the United States merchants and their customers are still forced to pay sky-high interchange fees.
Interchange fees started out in the 1960s as a way for banks to cover the cost of processing credit card transactions. But even as technology has dropped that cost dramatically, the banks and credit card companies have pushed swipe fees higher and higher, turning it into a cash cow. For many businesses, credit card fees are now their single-highest non-labor operating cost.
With almost any other equipment, supplier or service, retailers can comparison-shop, negotiate or otherwise influence its final cost of doing business. Store owners can conserve on energy usage and seek out the most competitive prices for merchandise, just to cite a few examples.
Not so with credit card interchange fees. Visa and MasterCard control more than 80 percent of the marketplace. They set the fees in secret, give businesses no ability to negotiate and virtually insist they be buried in the price of merchandise. Unfortunately, the card companies’ hidden fees get passed on to all consumers in the form of higher prices and lower value for nearly everything they buy.
“It’s bad enough that the credit card companies force these hidden fees on us and our customers when we can least afford it,” noted NACS Vice Chairman of Government Relations Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corporation. “But when we are paying more than anywhere else in the world, and other countries have taken action to protect their citizens from abuse, it is inconceivable that our government would turn a blind eye to the issue. It is time for Congress to step up and defend the principles of the free-market economy by taking action on (interchange) fees.”
Though Congress and the White House have addressed other credit card reforms, the MPC is arguing that any fix will be incomplete without addressing interchange fees. Consider:
Banks raked in an estimated $48 billion in interchange fees in 2008 – an average of $427 per American household in just one year.
- This $48 billion total is more than triple the amount collected as recently as in 2001.
- Hidden interchange fees cost Americans more than all credit card annual fees, cash advance fees, over-the-limit fees, and late fees combined.
- U.S. interchange fees are the highest in the developed world. The U.S. pays approximately 60 percent of interchange fees globally – about double the U.S. percentage share of global GDP.
Compared to the rest of the world, U.S. interchange fees are more than two times the rates in the U.K. and New Zealand, four times the rates in Australia and more than six times the cross-border rates recently agreed upon by MasterCard and the European Union.
Meanwhile, the payments industry has back with its own “study.”
In a September 17 press release, Visa announced the findings of a new study that shows that “consumers believe retailers benefit far more from accepting credit and debit cards than they pay in costs.
The press release noted that consumers believe merchants see card cost acceptance as a part of doing business, much like paying for utilities such as electricity.
“Retailers and their well-funded trade associations have filed lawsuits and are aggressively lobbying Congress to allow them to shift their business costs to consumers by allowing merchants to charge checkout fees whenever consumers use credit or debit cards. At the same time, national convenience store chains have launched misleading, in-store petition campaigns to cover for their checkout fee efforts, noted Visa’s press release.
“The response is loud and clear: consumers aren’t buying the message convenience store chains and big retailers are selling,” said Bill Sheedy, group president of the Americas for Visa Inc., in the release. “This research demonstrates that consumers are well aware that legislation is a Trojan horse that likely will lead to higher prices for cardholders while retailers pocket the savings.”