US retail giant 7-Eleven has collected more than 1.6 million signatures from customers calling for Congress to pass legislation tackling "unfair" credit card interchange fees.
7-Eleven says the signatures - collected by its franchisees and store operators across the country in around two months - represent an "overwhelming referendum" for legislative action.
The retailer says interchange fees aren't transparent to the consumer and result in higher prices, whether customers pay by card or cash. In 2008 alone, these fees cost American businesses and their customers $48 billion.
Joe DePinto, president and CEO, 7-Eleven, says: "Customers share our frustration over the hidden fees that American retailers and, ultimately, consumers are forced to pay. They, too, want Congress to take action to regulate these unfair fees, which are the highest in the industrialized world."
US lawmakers are already seeking to pass legislation that would give retailers a seat at the negotiating table with banks and credit card companies over interchange fee levels.
The bi-partisan Credit Card Fair Fee Act was introduced in June and has been referred to committee.
The petition is the latest salvo in an ongoing battle for public sympathy between merchants and Visa and MasterCard. Just last week Visa published the results of a survey it claims shows consumers are on its side.
The poll of 1000 people found that, by a two to one margin, consumers say retailers should pay the cost of accepting credit and debit cards. Meanwhile, over three quarters say the value and benefits retailers receive from accepting credit and debit cards outweigh the costs of accepting them.
Bill Sheedy, group president, the Americas, Visa, claimed: "The response is loud and clear: consumers aren't buying the message convenience store chains and big retailers are selling. This research demonstrates that consumers are well aware that legislation is a Trojan horse that likely will lead to higher prices for cardholders while retailers pocket the savings."