WASHINGTON - NACS is delivering a record-setting number of consumer signatures to Congress today, telling them that hidden credit and debit card swipe fees are unacceptable and that Congress must fix a clearly broken system.
The 2 million consumer signatures that were collected at convenience stores across the country earlier this year make it the largest collection of consumer signatures ever for a public-policy issue. Combined with the 1.7 million signatures that 7-Eleven franchisees collected and delivered to Congress last September, 3.7 million consumers have weighed in on this issue over the past year.
Credit and debit card swipe fees €" called "interchange fees" by the big banks that set these rates €" are a percentage of each transaction that Visa and MasterCard and their member banks collect from retailers every time a credit or debit card is used. These fees average about 2 percent in the United States, the highest rate in the industrialized world.
In 2008 alone, Americans paid over $48 billion in credit card swipe fees. These fees are non-negotiable and set in secret by the credit card companies and their member banks.
"Millions of Americans did their part in signing these petitions and urging Congress to take action against unfair swipe fees. Now it€™s time for Congress to step up to the plate and take a swing," said NACS Chairman Jay Ricker, president of Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker Oil Co.
"The secretive and collusive way the credit card companies set swipe fees and impose them on store operators is bad for business and bad for consumers," said NACS President and CEO Hank Armour. In announcing the NACS petition campaign last October, Armour asked retailers to "overwhelm Congress with millions and millions of signatures demanding action to fix the broken credit card system," and that was on display at the event.
"These 3.7 million customers represent the tidal wave of support behind swipe fee reform. And if 3.7 million signatures aren€™t enough, we€™ll send more," added David Seltzer, treasurer of 7-Eleven Inc. "We know how important this issue is for Main Street merchants and consumers, and we€™re not going away."
Credit card fees continue to be the convenience store industry€™s top pain point and second largest expense item €" behind only labor costs. As a percentage of overall sales, credit card fees increased in 2009, from 1.35 to 1.45 percent of total industry sales dollars, factoring in all forms of payment, including cash and check. Total credit card fees ($7.4 billion) also surpassed overall convenience store industry pretax profits ($4.8 billion) for the fourth straight year in 2009.
On Wednesday, April 28, Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc. (Urbandale, IA), will testify on behalf of NACS at a hearing on H.R. 2695, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Wednesday€™s hearing begins at 10:00 am and can be accessed via a live webcast. Look for exclusive coverage of the hearing in Thursday€™s NACS Daily.
NACS urges all members to contact their representatives and senators and ask them to support H.R. 2695 and the Senate companion measure, S. 1212. Ask to be connected to your members of Congress via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and/or send a letter through the NACS grassroots page. If you need assistance or talking points, contact the NACS government relations team at (703) 684-3600.