Retailers Escalate Swipe Fee Battle

Retailers are flocking to Congress again, for a final push to see swipe fee reform enacted.

The retail industry launched a new campaign Wednesday, May 18, to protect a federal law that reduces interchange fees. The effort is an attempt to combat the massive lobbying attacks by the banking industry that aim to delay and effectively kill the legislation, the Washington Post reported.

The new campaign calls for hundreds of merchants to descend on Capitol Hill in June to meet face to face with key lawmakers, a move that marks the third “fly-in” to be held this year on the issue of swipe fees.

In addition, the campaign plans to include both print and radio ads in Washington and six to 12 key states, as well as viral video clips.

Industry executives told the Washington Post they expect the campaign will put thousand comments in favor of swipe fee reform in front of lawmakers before the regulations on swipe fees take effect this summer.

“We’re going to raise the volume over the next 60 days,” said David French, chief lobbyist at the National Retail Federation, the trade group organizing the effort.

Although Congress approved a measure that directed the Federal Reserve to revamp the way banks charge merchants for accepting debit cards that would lower the fees by as much as 70%, to 7-12 cents a swipe, banks have bombarded Congress with ads and advocates against the legislation.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), sponsored one of the bills against swipe fee regulation, and said Wednesday that he is willing to shorten the proposed delay from two years to 15 months, which he said would allow six months to study the law, six months for regulators to draft new rules and three months for banks to implement them.

But retailers note the delay is really meant to kill the bill.

“This is a debate that has already happened,” French said. “Banks want a do-over.”

The Fed missed its self-imposed deadline for implementing final swipe fee regulations last month because it said it had to sift through 11,000 comments on its proposal. The law, which applies only to debit cards, is currently scheduled to go into effect July 21, 2011.

The convenience store industry paid $9 billion in swipe fees in 2010, according to the latest data from the NACS State of the Industry. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is encouraging members to write to their members of Congress at nacsonline.com/swipefeesletter.

 

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