Consumers unlikely to benefit from interchange restrictions - GAO

Consumers unlikely to benefit from interchange restrictions - GAO

The US Government Accountability Office says the imposition of new regulations on credit card interchange fees would be difficult to implement and unlikely to benefit consumers.

The GAO report has been seized on by business stakeholders in the payments arena who have been campaigning against the introduction of new rules limiting increases in interchange fees.

The GAO acknowledged that merchants would benefit from restrictions on credit card pricing, but questioned the value to consumers.

"Consumers would also benefit if merchants reduced prices for goods and services, but identifying such savings would be difficult," the report states. "Consumers also might face higher card use costs if issuers raised other fees or interest rates to compensate for lost interchange fee income."

Financial services lobby group, the Electronic Payments Coalition welcomed the findings. "The GAO's report leads to a clear conclusion: current interchange legislation places the needs of giant retailers over the needs of consumers. We urge Members of Congress to protect the interests of their constituents, and to oppose harmful interchange legislation."

In the opposition camp, the Merchants Payments Coalition called on Congressional leaders to continue with their reforms: "Unless Congress acts to bring competition and transparency into the interchange system, the big banks and credit card companies will keep lining their pockets at the expense of small businesses and consumers nationwide."

Read the full report:» Download the document now 772.5 kb (PDF File)

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