The state of Vermont is proposing an amendment to S. 138 being introduced today in the Vermont Senate. This amendment would allow merchants to set minimum and maximum transaction amounts for all debit, credit and charge card transactions, permitting them to reject a customer’s card.
The Electronic Payments Coalition has spoken out against the amendment saying it is “an egregious assault on Vermont consumer protection laws. Shoppers at big box retailers would be left vulnerable to bait and switch pricing schemes, discriminated against at the register based on the card in their wallet, and forced to carry around cash at all times. Moreover, the amendment language ignores the facts of the global electronic payments system that connects tens of thousands of card issuers, millions of merchants and billions of cardholders, with proposals that are simply unworkable. This is a ‘sweetheart deal’ for big-box retailers who don’t want to pay their fair share for a service that brings them higher profits, more customers and guaranteed payment – and want their customers to pick up the tab instead.”
The new bill would prohibit the card companies (Visa & MasterCard) from centrally fixing the prices of interchange fees; prohibit card companies from fining or penalizing merchants for their pricing displays; would no longer require merchants to accept every type of card the companies issue, regardless of the cost to the merchant; would allow merchants to set minimum and/or maximum transaction amounts without being fined or penalized by the companies; and would allow merchants to determine which business locations will, and will not, accept cards, without being fined or penalized by the companies.
“This proposed legislation has significant implications for merchants nationwide. We expect the card companies to vigorously oppose any law that limits their ability to impose unreasonable penalties on merchants,” Tasha Wallis, executive director of the Vermont Retail Association, told Vermontbiz.com.
Jim Harrison, president of the Vermont Grocers Association added, “These companies are notorious for abuses against individual cardholders, and they treat business owners the same way. This legislation will bring much-needed restraint to an out-of-control industry.”