The Debit Interchange Fee Battle Continues…

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It’s the story that won’t ever die. First it was Dont Make Us Pay and now it’s Where’s My Debit Discount? It’s the latest campaign in an epic struggle between the big banks and congress. Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last two years, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed on July 21, 2010 and it granted the Federal Government authority to regulate debit card interchange rates. In the year that followed, billions were spent by lobbyists to either diffuse the law or make it stick.

The law has been in effect for several months now but it seems the war isn’t over. The Electronic Payments Coalition is back on the campaign trail to repeal the Durbin Amendment. This time they’re offering proof that consumers are not receiving the savings they were promised.

Without recapping all of the particulars, the news was rampant with misinformation and the chronology of events is difficult to remember. That’s why we have memorialized it with articles that covered the developments of it since December, 2010. How did the war play out? Read below:

Electronic Payments Industry Changing Forever – All points bulletin | December 17, 2010 | In it, we slammed the Federal Government and Senator Dick Durbin for a law we believed would lead to the extermination of the entire banking system. We predicted that rewards on debit cards would immediately disappear, as would the entire concept of debit cards themselves over time. We also surmised that quality, fraud protection, and assurance would suffer.

Debit Card Costs May Be Put on the Consumer – Don’t Make Us Pay | February 18, 2011 | We discovered, an organization representing consumers in the fight against debit fee regulation. We encouraged people to sign up.

Congressman Steve Israel Replies to Our Concerns About Debit Card Reform | February 22, 2011 | We signed the petition and received a letter back from Congressman Steve Israel.

Say Goodbye to Debit Cards | March 11, 2011 | We acknowledged that our predictions were coming true. JPMorgan announced that consumers would likely face a spending cap of $50 – $100 per purchase when using their debit cards.

Debit Interchange Fee Study Act: A Few Good Senators Try to Stop the Madness | March 17, 2011 | At this point our inbox had filled up with emails from people accusing our website of being a secret front for the major banks. The term ‘astroturfing’ came up more than a few times. In our article on this day, we reminded the public that banks employed millions of average Americans, and that they would likely be the ones to suffer if regulations forced monetary losses. We praised the Senators who were trying to muster up support for a bill to put the Durbin Amendment on ice for a few years, while the impact of reform could be studied further. The bill was not successful.

Debit Card Rewards Go the Way of the Dinosaur | March 23, 2011 | JPMorgan announced they will terminate rewards on debit cards for all of their customers as a result of the Durbin Amendment. This affirmed one of our original predictions.

Wells Fargo, Chase, SunTrust Cancel Debit Rewards Program | March 28, 2011 | More of the big banks followed suit.

Interchange Regulation and Reduction | April 16, 2011 | We presented evidence that reform would fail by outlining what happened in Australia when they enacted similar regulations ten years earlier. Small businesses did not save money and consumers did not benefit.

Debit Card Fee Reform is Gaining Steam in Canada | April 18, 2011 | Inspired by the U.S., The Canadian Government Begun Taking Another Crack at Limiting Debit Interchange Fees.

Save My Debit Card Video Finalists | May 9, 2011 | We covered the results of the competition held by Some of the videos made by consumers to save their debit cards were pretty funny.

Debit Card Fee Reform to be Finalized June 29 | June 28, 2011 | We made our final prediction on what the interchange cap will be.

Blackjack! 21 Cent Debit Card Interchange Fee Plus 5 Basis Points | June 30, 2011 | Regulations were written as Federal Law. Many sections of the original legislation were clarified, specifically that the fee cap is limited to interchange, the amount card issuing banks make per transaction. There is no cap on the fees that retailers pay at the point of sale. The only party that appears to have been affected are the card issuing banks. Acquiring banks and merchant service providers are not required to lower fees or to pass down the savings to retailers.

And the Misinformation Continues | July 12, 2011 | BusinessWeek had just featured a story about a small restaurant owner that was thrilled that her debit card fees would soon be only 21 cents per transaction. We blasted the story as being factually incorrect since the law did not place any cap on the point of sale. We highlighted the fact that so much misinformation had gone around, that retailers did not realize that interchange fees are the fees acquiring banks pay to card issuing banks. Merchant service providers still control the amount retailers pay. They are not required to share the savings at all. Our e-mails to BusinessWeek did not receive any response.

15,000 Exempt From The Debit Card Interchange Fee Standards | July 14, 2011 | 15,000 banks were apparently exempted from the debit card reform law because they had less than $10 billion in assets. It becomes evident that the law will have strange consequences since it only applies to the largest banks.

Don’t Make Us Pay Goes Quiet | August 7, 2011 | The consumer movement appeared to have been a secret front for the major banks. A closer look revealed that there may never have been a consumer movement at all.

Revenge for the Durbin Amendment | October 3, 2011 | Bank of America announced a plan to charge their customers a $5 monthly fee to use a debit card.

Don’t Make Us Pay is Back At it Again | October 21, 2011 | Months after the “consumer movement” disappeared, it appeared to rise again when they sent out a mass e-mail.

Where’s the Debit Discount? | December 11, 2011 | The Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC) released a report that illustrated consumers were not experiencing the savings that retailers had promised they would pass down when the debit card fee cap went into effect. The EPC is the same group behind the movement.

Law to Reduce Debit Card Fees to Retailers Has Opposite Effect | December 12, 2011 | The new law was found to have caused certain retailers to pay higher debit card fees than previously. Retailers began learning that they may not be getting the savings they thought they had won.

Last modified: August 1, 2013
Sean Murray

Category: Debit Cards, Merchant Processing, MPR Authored

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