Canadian authorities are to launch a probe into credit card interchange fees and the debit payment system.
The catalyst for the hearings - initiated under the authority of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, and by a separate Senate Committee measure - is a forthcoming shake-up in the national payments industry stemming from plans to switch the bank-owned Interac umbrella body to a for-profit entity.
Interac has been in talks with the country's competition bureau over the proposed restructuring which is intended to fight off increased competition from credit card companies like Visa, which are entering the debit market in Canada.
The hearings will likely lead to popular and political pressure for legislative measures to stimulate competition and depress fees at a time of economic depression.
The move has been applauded by the Retail Council of Canada, which has been fearful that the overhaul of Interac will lead to a rise in debit card tariffs.
Diane Brisebois, president and CEO, Retail Council of Canada, says: "We must not allow debit card services to end up like the credit card market, where rates are jacked up to provide ever-more profit for the card issuers and the card companies. We hope the committee will use its hearings to look for a future structure for the debit card market that is innovative, low cost, and above all focused on the needs of cardholders and merchants, not card issuers."