Next Target: All Interchange

Editor’s Note:  The lessons from price controls on debit interchange — consumers lose  — has apparently not been learned. 

From: CSPnet.com

SIGMA, other groups set sights on further fee reductions

By Steve Holtz

WASHINGTON Even as efforts are made to repeal debit-card-fee reform, SIGMA and other retail groups hope to carry the momentum of that historic lobbying effort to make similar changes to credit-card and other interchange fees in the near future.

“The banks’ great hope is that this will be applied only to ‘cards’,” said Tim Columbus, legal counsel for SIGMA, during the SIGMA Annual Meeting in Washington this past weekend.

Noting the growing trend of mobile-payment technology, he added, “So we’re going to focus on ‘interchange’,” which would include all forms of credit payment systems.

While still in the infancy of planning the attack, Columbus noted that major banks are still stunned that they lost the battle on debit-card fees. “This is the most-heavily lobbied issue that [Congress] has seen in many years,” Columbus said during the Legislative Committee meeting.

“We won,” added Michael Coulson, chairman of Coulson Oil Co., Little Rock, Ark., and chairman of SIGMAPAC. “Our forces won that battle. So you should give yourselves a hand,” he told the retailers attending the session.

Columbus could not provide a timeline for the effort to be launched, but he did for the most part put to rest concerns about the debit-fee changes enacted Oct. 1 being repealed.

The major banks’ biggest argument against the fee change–enacted by the so-called Durbin Amendment named after Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D)–was that community banks would suffer, according to Columbus.

However, “community banks continue to prosper, consumers are saving money, and retailers are happy,” Columbus said. “That leaves only the major banks to lobby for repeal.”

Reports estimate the top banking institutions in the country stand to lose about $8 billion because of the fee change. Still, Columbus said, “If the Republicans take [control of] the Senate in 2012, attempts to repeal the Durbin Amendment will be very hard.”

The Durbin Amendment, as ruled by the Federal Reserve, caps debit-fee swipe charges at 21 cents per debit transaction, plus 0.05% of the transaction amount, reducing the fee from the 44-cent average charge that previously applied.

The Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America is a nonprofit, national trade association representing independent U.S. motor fuel marketers and chain retailers. Its approximately 250 corporate members command 30% of the petroleum retail market, selling more than 56 billion gallons of motor fuel a year.

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