NACS Spent $1.2 Million on Lobbying in First Quarter

In an effort to keep up with the aggressive banking lobby in the fight over swipe fee reform, NACS spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying in the first quarter, according to a recent disclosure document.

That is about double the $650,500 that it spent in the first quarter of last year and well above the $810,000 that it spent in the last three months of 2010. The trade group lobbied on fuel prices, interchange fees and other issues during the January-through-March time period, the Associated Press reported.

In addition to Congress, the group lobbied the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency and others, the AP report revealed.

Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.

The U.S. Federal Reserve released its final rules on debit card swipe fees earlier this week, much to the convenience store industry’s dismay. NACS Senior Vice President of Government Relations Lyle Beckwith called the fed’s ruling “an irresponsible abdication of its legal duty to implement the law as written.”

The final rules set a per-transaction debit swipe fee of 21 cents, which is significantly higher than the Federal Reserve’s originally proposed rate of 7 cents or the compromise rate of 12 cents. The rules also add 0.05 percent of the transaction amount for fraud prevention.

“Final rules should look like proposed rules. This should have been a clear victory for consumers. We are left to believe that the credibility of the Federal Reserve is in question because it’s obvious that political pressure from the big banks has impacted the outcome of the final rules,” said NACS Chairman Jeff Miller, who is president of Norfolk, Virginia-based Miller Oil Co. “A cap of 21 cents per transaction is better than the current average of 44 cents per transaction, but it is more than 400% more than the 4 cents per transaction that the a Fed-sponsored survey of banks found to be the real cost of processing a debit transaction.”

Swipe fees are the convenience and fuel retailing industry’s top pain point and second largest expense item — behind only labor costs. Credit and debit card fees at convenience stores jumped a staggering 21.6 percent to hit a record $9.0 billion in 2010, surpassing overall convenience store industry profits for the fifth straight year. As a percentage of overall sales, credit and debit card fees increased from 1.45 percent to 1.56 percent of total industry sales dollars, factoring in all forms of payment, including cash and check. Just looking at motor fuels sales, credit and debit card fees added 4.7 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold at convenience stores in 2010.

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