Industry applauds House passage of swipe fee legislation

ARLINGTON, Va. Retail industry groups on Wednesday praised the House of Representatives for passing the conference report to H.R. 4173, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which includes a provision to regulate interchange fees set by banks and credit card companies.

The Food Marketing Institute's president and CEO Leslie Sarasin on Wednesday said the “ [237-192] vote caps more than a decade of work by FMI and our members to educate members of Congress about these excessive fees and their impact on our customers. This vote is incredibly important to both merchants and consumers and is the beginning of a process that will provide greater transparency in credit and debit transactions. It will give merchants the ability to more efficiently plan their operational costs for the benefit of their customers.”

If the conference report passes in the Senate, President Obama has said he intends to sign it and make it law.

According to FMI, consumers have been paying more than $50 billion a year in hidden interchange fees to credit card companies and banks. Interchange fees are collected by banks and credit card companies each time a consumer uses a credit or debit card to make a purchase. Since theses fees are hidden, consumers are unaware of the costs associated with their cards, FMI suggested.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association also praised the passage, stating that "although the merchant community gave up some additional reforms during the conference process, the resulting compromise represents a major step in the right direction for those who accept credit and debit cards. By focusing narrowly on financial institutions at that heart of the problem, the swipe fee reforms included in the Dodd-Frank Act address the out-of-control fees, while excluding smaller banks and credit unions from reforms," the industry said through a statement by SVP government affairs John Emling.

The legislation passage in the House also drew response from theNational Retail Federation's SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan.

“The House has sent a clear message that big banks shouldn’t be allowed to drive up consumer prices by charging fees that are outrageously out of proportion to the actual cost of processing a transaction,” Duncan said. “The requirements of this bill should result in debit card swipe fees that are truly ‘reasonable’ and ensure that banks can’t put their hands quite as far into consumers’ wallets as they do today.”

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