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WASHINGTON — NACS applauded the reintroduction yesterday of the "Credit Card Fair Fee Act," bipartisan legislation introduced by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA). The bill seeks to address the more than $48 billion that Americans annually pay in credit card interchange fees.
Similar to legislation introduced last Congress by Chairman Conyers and supported by NACS, the bill (H.R. 2695) seeks to help level the playing field for retailers by giving them a seat at the negotiating table with banks to determine the fees assessed for every sale made by credit card, and ultimately reduce the costs of everyday goods for consumers.
Credit card interchange or 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. These fees average about 2 percent in the United States, the highest rate in the industrialized world.
In 2008, credit card fees cost U.S. convenience stores $8.4 billion—compared to only $5.2 billion in store profits, according to NACS data. Almost all of these credit card fees are attributable to credit card swipe fees.
According to NACS, credit card interchange fees are set in secret by the banks and hidden from view. Raising these fees is how Visa and MasterCard—which together control more than 80 percent of the U.S. credit card market—encourage banks to issue more credit and debit cards, argue critics of the credit card industry.
"We are delighted that Congress is taking a closer look at these outrageous fees on the heels of its reform of the credit card industry’s abusive lending practices," said NACS Chairman Sonja Hubbard, CEO of Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart Stores. "Now it’s time to address the rest of the credit card industry’s abusive practices."
"Right now swipe fees are fixed by the banks, hidden from the public and forced on retailers in a take-it-or-leave-it offer," said Hubbard. "The Credit Card Fair Fee Act would allow retailers and the card associations to negotiate on equal footing, and we applaud this bipartisan effort to make it happen," she said.
These fees have been the subject of multiple hearings in both the House and Senate under both the Republican and Democratic Congresses, and the banking industry has intensely lobbied against any reform—something it continues to do.
"It is simply outrageous that the banking industry—which received hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailout money—continues to spread fear and misinformation in their lobbying efforts," said Hubbard. "The bottom line is that unless Congress fully addresses how credit card swipe fees are determined, and why they are set in secret and hidden from consumers, the banking industry will have free reign to establish higher rates and create new hidden fees that continue to punish Americans," she said.