Peter Guidi's Blog

Passing on the savings: Do lower interchange fees mean lower retailer prices for the consumer?

In alternative payment, credit card, debit card, interchange, payment, Payment card, Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Oscar Wilde once said “There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up”. The same may be true of interchange fees and margins.

This month the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) published a report called “Payment Card Networks under Assault” which makes the case that capping interchange fees will hurt consumers, charities, community banks and credit unions. One of their primary claims is that retailers would not pass on savings from lower interchange fees to consumers. The CEI points to the GAO report which concluded that “consumers may not experience lower prices and retailers could pocket the entire windfall resulting from any reduction in interchange fees”.  Meanwhile, the Consumers for Competitive Choice (C4CC) called for interchange fee reform stating that reform would spur job growth, and as expressed by one President of a 90 store chain who is paying nearly 3.5 million dollars in interchange fees saying: “lower fees would mean lower costs for consumers”.

 Would a retailer pass on savings to consumers if interchange fees where lowered? Here’s another question: Will retailers use discounts to compete with credit card companies for the consumer’s method of payment? And if they do, what methods are available; price roll back for ACH or cash credit pricing? As the ball goes back and forth on this issue, both sides need to be cognizant that Congress is looking for solutions that benefit the consumer. Unless the retailers can demonstrate that they are willing to provide lower retail prices to consumers for less expensive forms of payment, why should Congress believe that consumers will benefit from a cap on interchange fees?  (http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterguidi)

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