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DALLAS -- 7-Eleven store owners and operators are undertaking a million-signature petition campaign calling on Congress to reform "unfair and excessive" credit card transaction fees.
Approximately 6,300 7-Eleven franchisees, licensees and store operators in the United States are working to change the way credit card companies’ do business with retailers and are taking their beef to the street, or more specifically, to their counters.
The chain is putting the spotlight on credit card companies' interchange fees, which store operators are charged every time a customer uses a credit or debit card. "Transaction fees squeezed American businesses and their customers to the tune of $48 billion in 2008 alone," the company said in a statement.
7-Eleven paid $160 million to credit card companies last year, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News. "The card companies merely pick a rate and then they charge away—no notice, no discussion. In fact, we rarely know before we start paying higher fees that the card companies have new rates," Keith Jones, a 7-Eleven lobbyist, told the newspaper.
7-Eleven stores are operated by franchisees who represent more than 6,000 small businesses in neighborhoods across America, noted Darren Rebelez, 7-Eleven executive vice president and COO. "This petition drive is a grassroots effort to get a fair deal, spearheaded by small business owners in the communities where they live and with the customers they serve every day. Interchange fees are hurting individual small business operators, which represent more than 75 percent of 7-Eleven stores in the U.S.," he said. "The fundamental challenge is that in most business relationships, both parties have the ability to negotiate, and in this case we do not."
A copy of the petition will be prominently offered for signatures at the checkout counter in every U.S. 7-Eleven store until Aug. 10. At the end of the petition drive, 7-Eleven expects to deliver 1 million signatures to Congress, calling on legislators to stop credit companies from charging "unfair, hidden" transaction fees and to pass legislation empowering retailers to negotiate with credit card companies.
"We’re not asking for a bailout, we simply want to negotiate in good faith with credit card companies in the same manner we negotiate with thousands of our other business partners," Rebelez said.
American consumers pay among the highest transaction fees in the industrialized world, the company said. An average of $2 out of every $100 Americans spend goes to transaction fees, and for many businesses, transaction fees are now their highest non-labor cost, growing even faster than health care costs. As other countries reined in excessive transaction fees in recent years, and the actual cost of processing credit card transactions has gone down, and Americans are now paying triple the amount in transaction fees they paid in 2001, reaching $48 billion last year alone.
"In the convenience industry, credit card companies come out the winner making more than twice the profits of the industry in total," Rebelez said. "To date, we have been unable to convince these companies to come to the table to negotiate fair fees. In order to survive and stay in business, our franchisees and licensees plan to make a significant, collective statement with this petition drive. "
At the conclusion of the campaign, the top signature-gatherers from each of 7-Eleven’s seven U.S. geographical divisions will be flown to Washington to personally deliver the signatures to Congress.
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