US authorities push interchange negotiation bill

US authorities push interchange negotiation bill

US lawmakers are 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 is being pushed through Congress by democratic House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and republican representative Bill Shuster.

Similar legislation was first tabled last year. The new bill dispenses with earlier provisions to set up a panel to arbitrate arguments between merchants and banks and to require retailers to pass on interchange savings to customers.

Under the current proposals, merchants would be allowed to enter negotiations with banks to establish rates and terms, while an antitrust attorney from the Department of Justice would be present at the talks.

Revenue from interchange in the US credit card industry reached $48 billion last year, up from $42 billion in 2007 and $36 billion a year earlier.

MasterCard issued a statement saying that if passed, the bill would result in "less credit availability, along with higher prices and reduced benefits when Americans choose to use their credit or debit cards".

The National Retail Federation in contrast welcomed the move. NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan comments: "In the middle of one of the worst recessions seen in decades, consumers can't continue to pay artificially inflated prices just so the credit card industry can skim profits off the top. It's time for these fees to be brought under control."

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