September 17, 2009

Merchants and bankers in clash over fees

U.S. retailers and banks are gearing up for a battle over interchange fees charged by banks when consumers pull out their credit cards to make a purchase.

With three separate bills in Congress lined up to address the issue, retailers and banks are lobbying for support, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Retailers are looking for relief from the fee of 1 percent to 2 percent of purchase prices they say they take on themselves or pass on to customers. Banks are painting the picture that paying with plastic and the costs involved are a customary part of commerce in the modern world.

A study conducted by the Merchants Payments Coalition showed that in the past four years $125 billion would have been saved had U.S. banks used the card fee system used in Australia.

It's the No. 2 cost, behind labor, in our industry, said Lyle Beckwith, a senior vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

On Thursday, Visa Inc. released a survey that showed customers by a 2-to-1 margin indicated they believed retailers should pay the cost of accepting credit and debit cards.

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.