As the U.S. Senate gears up for a final vote on Wall Street reform legislation, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined how the bill would help Ohio retailers, businesses and consumers by cracking down on "swipe fees" charged on debit card purchases. Brown is fighting for a provision, passed as an amendment to Wall Street reform, that would help reduce the swipe fees that small businesses pay on credit and debit card sales.
"High swipe fees cut into the already tight profit lines for small businesses across Ohio. And too often, the cost is passed along to the consumers," Brown said. "Wall Street reform will prevent unreasonable swipe fees from undermining the growth of small business."
Brown was joined today by Tony Kenny, President of Speedway SuperAmerica -- which has more than 440 locations in Ohio and is headquartered in Enon, Ohio, and Stephanie Skylar, President & CEO of Chief Super Market, Inc.-- which operates 13 stores in Northwest and West Central Ohio. Ohio convenience stores paid more than $341 million in interchange fees in 2008.
"Credit card fees are hidden to our customers and have increased at a double digit annual compound growth rate during the past decade. We expect that our petition campaign will carry more customer voices to Congress demanding that they address the problem of credit card swipe fees," Kenney said.
"Interchange swipe fees are one of the highest operating costs we face, and as a 1-2% profit margin business, any reduction in these fees will be a true win for small businesses and consumers. We operate 12 grocery stores in Northwest Ohio. If fees were reduced, our business would have more funds to invest back into the business to hire more workers, invest in improvements, and provide greater benefits to our customers. I look forward to the ultimate passage of this legislation," Skylar said.
Swipe fees are charged by credit card companies in order to cover the cost of processing a credit or debit card transaction. Although processing costs have decreased, fees continue to rise. Visa and MasterCard charge interchange fees of between 1 and 2 percent of the transaction amount. High swipe fees hurt small businesses by charging fees that cut into increasingly tight profit margins.
The provision, which passed with bipartisan support in a vote of 64-33, would:
* Prevent Visa and MasterCard from continuing to increase debit card interchange fee rates, which are currently 1--2 percent of the transaction amount even though the actual cost of processing a debit transaction is far less.
* Direct the Federal Reserve to issue regulations to ensure that interchange fees imposed on debit card transactions would be "reasonable and proportional to the cost incurred in processing the transaction. The rules would have a carve-out for small bank debit cards).
* Stop Visa and MasterCard from raising debit interchange fees simply because their market power means that merchants can do little to fight back. Reducing debit interchange fees would be like a tax break on every debit card sale a merchant makes.
Interchange rates in the U.S. are the highest in the world and Visa and MasterCard continue to raise domestic interchange rates. In April, Visa lowered many European debit rates by as much as 60 percent while increasing many U.S. rates by 30 percent.