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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 09, 2015 • Issue 15:02:01

High court rebuffs merchant challenge to debit interchange

Efforts by the nation's retailers to force down debit card interchange was dealt another blow recently when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a 2014 appellate court ruling that let stand rate caps set by the Federal Reserve Board under the Durbin Amendment to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

Undeterred, retailers vowed to continue pressing for mandated lower interchange. Banks, for their part, have countered that enough is enough.

The Fed has been on the hot seat since it first took up the mission of capping debit card interchange as directed by Congress, with retailers pressing for bigger cuts and banks seeing it as a windfall for retailers, especially big-box retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Retailers vow to persist

In July 2013, a group led by the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Convenience Stores and several individual retailers successfully challenged the $0.21 per transaction cap set by the Fed in U.S. district court, but that decision was overturned in March 2014 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court's decision not to review the appeals court decision means the 2014 decision stands.

The expected response from retailers was swift. "Banks will benefit from this ruling, but the battle over swipe fees isn't over," said Mallory Duncan, NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. "There is still litigation pending on credit card swipe fees, and policymakers continue to be concerned by the anti-consumer, anti-competitive practices of the card industry."

Bankers are relieved

Banking groups said they were pleased with the decision. They also insisted that the underlying policy remains flawed, is bad for consumers and that Congress should not be in the business of setting bank fees.

"The Durbin Amendment has significantly harmed consumers and financial institutions," said Frank Keating, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Bankers Association. "At the end of the day, American consumers have paid the price for the efforts of big-box retailers to line their pockets at their own customers' expense."

Richard Hunt, President and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, said, "Reasonable minds have prevailed with the Supreme Court ruling. This drawn-out fight should put on notice those members of Congress who insist upon interfering with the free market." The Green Sheet, Inc.

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