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Bernanke Fed wont hit April interchange deadline
WASHINGTON (3/30/11)--The final version of the Federal Reserve’s interchange fee cap proposal will not be released on April 21 as planned, but the Fed is still aiming for the rules to come into effect on July 21, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a Tuesday letter to members of Congress. The letter was sent to Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Senate Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), and House Committee Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney said in response to the Fed’s admission that if the agency cannot meet the deadline imposed on it by Congress, then it is further proof that Congress must take action now to postpone this entire matter. “We remain deeply troubled overall by the impact of the statute itself, and will continue to urge Congress to adopt legislation to delay the overall implementation date of July 21 and carefully study the impact of the debit interchange provision, particularly on credit unions and their members,” Cheney said. Cheney also expressed concern that if the Fed adheres to the July 21 implementation date, a final rule will be issued without sufficient time to prepare for compliance. Bernanke said that the delay is partly due to the complexity of the issues raised by comments on the Fed’s proposal. The Fed has received more than 11,000 comments on the proposal, and Bernanke said that the sheer number of comments has also contributed to the delay. The Fed Chairman said that the “extraordinary volume of comments reflects the importance of debit cards” to consumers, and added that “the information provided in these comments is important for assessing fully the effect of the proposed rule on the U.S. payments system and its users and providers.” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) estimates that 5,600 of these comment letters came from credit unions. The Fed's proposal would cap debit card interchange fees that are paid by merchants to large debit card issuers at no more than twelve cents per transaction. Issuers with under $10 billion in assets are entitled to be exempted from the interchange fee rate setting provisions. Bernanke last week said the Fed would ensure that this planned carveout would be effective. Legislation that would delay the implementation of the interchange fee cap was introduced in the Senate and House this month. The two bills would also order regulators to study the impact that the proposed interchange rules would have on credit unions, small issuers, consumers and merchants.

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