Washington, Mar. 30, 2009 -- Today, the Merchants Payments Coalition announced the launch of an aggressive media and grassroots campaign to rein in unfair and hidden credit card fees called “interchange.” On a press call this morning, the campaign announced the details of its congressional efforts, already underway in eight key House members’ districts.
The initial phase of this campaign is working to convince a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress who could be important champions for this legislation, each of them members of the powerful Financial Services Committee. Phase one of the campaign consists of a significant advertising campaign that includes a six-figure buy in television, radio, online and print formats focusing directly at constituent action in the Members’ districts. Thousands of merchants and coalition members across the country and in these key districts have also kicked off a grassroots effort to contact their Member of Congress to give small business and consumers a helping hand in this economy.
The list of House members where paid media will run includes: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS); Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL); Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA); Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT); Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH); Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY); and Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID).
“We don’t think we can fix the economic crisis without addressing the incentives behind irresponsible credit card lending by reforming the interchange fee system and addressing this unfair burden on American small businesses and consumers,” said Hank Armour, CEO of the National Association of Convenience Stores on this morning’s call. “We are campaigning in districts of these members of the House Financial Services committee to send a message. With this unprecedented effort, Congress will hear the message of consumers and small business owners across the country loud and clear: Stop the price-fixing. Stop the billions of dollars in hidden fees. Start our economic recovery by protecting Main Street businesses and American consumers, not big banks and credit card companies,” said Armour.
“First it was subprime mortgages. Now, another financial storm is on the horizon, and as Congress tries to rein in credit card fees, they could miss the biggest problem, and that is why we’re launching this aggressive campaign to reform interchange fees and rules. As Members of Congress work to fix the economic crisis and reform the financial system, they need to address the growing problem of unfair and anticompetitive interchange. Reining in interest rates and late fees is an important step, but it won’t mean anything for the consumer if banks are allowed to just shift the costs to interchange fees and impose rules that adversely affect consumers and merchants,” said Tom Wenning, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the National Grocers Association.
“These hidden fees are unfair to customers, are a drag on small business, and hurt the economy. It’s time for Congress to take action, stand up for consumers, and reform these excessive and irresponsible interchange fees. The campaign we’re launching will be spearheaded by store operators in their communities and talk to their Representatives in Congress. It will also educate and involve the millions of consumers who come to their stores every single day," said Mallory Duncan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at the National Retail Federation.
"The retailers and consumers who pay these fees are not asking for a government bailout -- just transparency and a fair process. A 300 percent increase in 7 years in this economy -- that is not fair or market based," said Jennifer Hatcher, Group Vice President of Government Relations at the Food Marketing Institute.
The campaign is calling on these Members to stand up to credit card companies and big banks who, after the disaster of the subprime mortgages, are still practicing predatory lending with credit cards, charging huge, hidden fees known as interchange that cost Americans $48 billion last year alone. These interchange fees are threatening to squeeze thousands of merchants out of business and are costing hundreds of dollars per year for the average household. In our current economic crisis, these fees are a burden to millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet and a drain on our national recovery.
Scott Hardman, President & CEO of Rutter’s Farm Stores in central Pennsylvania said, “credit card interchange fees were $4.6 million for my stores alone. In this economy this directly affects my business and also my customers.”
The Merchants Payments Coalition is a group of convenience stores, retailers, and small business owners whose membership associations represent approximately 2.7 million stores and 50 million employees.
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Source: Company press release.