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FMI Starts Online Petition Supporting Swipe Fee Reform

by Lorrie Griffith/editor

On the one-year anniversary of the Durbin Amendment in May, hometown businesses and their customers across America are still facing the financial difficulties of the ongoing battle against interchange swipe fees, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

To keep focus on this important issue, FMI has launched an online petition for the retail community to sign and show their support for the debit card reforms Congress passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill last year. The petition can be found at www.keepdebitswipefeesincheck.com.

“Today, retailers struggle to balance swipe fees, which are the second highest operation cost after labor,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and CEO. “Due to this, consumers are shouldering the burden, as portions of these fees must be incorporated into the price of goods.”

During the FMI Future Connect conference in Dallas May 10-12, Sarasin stated in her keynote address that the primary payment method in supermarkets is the debit card, and “swipe fee reform is the right thing to do.”

Interchange fees are No. 4 on the list of retailer concerns this year, according to Sarasin. The economy, healthcare costs and competition came in ahead of the fees.

The Durbin Amendment, adopted by a Senate vote of 64-33, works toward reforming fixed fees that are the highest in the world. Across the globe, seven of the eight countries with highest per capita debit card usage have a swipe fee rate of zero. In the U.S., fees can be as high as 50 cents per swipe, causing local businesses to be unable to make profits from their sales, according to the FMI.

“The inability for supermarkets to negotiate fees and terms of card acceptance leaves many at the mercy of the big banks and card networks,” said Jennifer Hatcher, SVP of government and public affairs at FMI. “Last year Congress passed reforms to rein in debit card swipe fees, and it is critical to the livelihood of Main Street business that these reforms go into effect on time this year.”

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate (HR 1081/S. 575) would delay these reforms for one and two years (respectively), putting billions of dollars back into the hands of Wall Street banks, FMI added.

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