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Retailers Push Federal Reserve to Lower Debit Card Fees

Collectively, convenience stores pay $11 billion annually in debit card swipe fees.
April 27, 2016

​WASHINGTON – As the Federal Reserve collects data on debit card swipe fees, merchants are lobbying for a reduction in the fee standard, The Hill reports. “We do surveys of issuer costs,” a Fed representative told the newspaper. “We’re in the process of collecting data for 2015 and putting a report together that we expect to release later this year.”

In a separate measure, the agency is also conducting a once-per-10-year review of regulation to identify obsolete or redundant requirements. To that end, industry groups have been approached about which regulations are most onerous. For retailers, swipe fees top the list.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) claimed that such fees are “still substantially higher than issuers’ incremental costs,” in its response to the review. “By way of comparison, due to more restrictive margins in the retail industry and elsewhere, the average net profit for retail varies from slightly over 1% for the grocery sector to slightly under 4% for high-end specialty luxury stores,” said Mallory Duncan, NRF’s senior vice president and general counsel.

Convenience stores have long pointed out that the industry shells out $11 billion annually in debit card fees. Retailers also point out that they have passed on to consumers two-thirds of the savings from reduced swipe fees.

With EMV chip cards now available, retailers have another concern: shifted liability for fraud. However, banks still grab 0.05% of each transaction for fraud recovery. “It’s an awful situation right now, to say to a merchant you are going to eat all the fraud cost and we’re still going to charge five basis points,” said Duncan, who also serves as chair of the Merchants Payments Coalition, of which NACS is a founding member. “They are double-dipping for fraud.”