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Conyers bill would force interchange negotiations
WASHINGTON (6/5/09)--Interchange fees could again be a topic of debate on Capitol Hill after Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on Thursday introduced H.R. 2695, the “Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2009.” The bill would allow merchants to negotiate credit card transaction fees with financial institutions via an antitrust exemption. Credit unions regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and other financial institutions with less than $1 billion in total assets would be exempted from the terms of the bill. Financial institutions also would not be bound by the terms of outside agreements that they had no part in negotiating. However, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) still strongly opposes this bill and disputes proponents arguments that the bill would benefit consumers. John Magill, senior vice president of legislative affairs at CUNA, said Thursday, "The fact is that the only group that stands to benefit from this legislation is the merchants, and the large merchants at that. "The payment system is working, and the evidence is that consumers can go into most places of business and use a plastic card to pay for their transaction, if they so choose. "Further proof that the payment system is competitive is that consumers have so many card choices, and merchants have so many credit unions and banks to choose from for acquiring services,” Magill said. He added, “This legislation is a solution in search of a problem." Similar legislation, H.R. 5546, met bipartisan opposition last year, yet narrowly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 19-16 vote. The bill never received a full vote in Congress. H.R. 2695 is expected to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee soon. While the recently enacted Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 did not mandate any changes in interchange fees, it did direct the Government Accountability Office to complete a study on the issue. That study should be completed within six months.


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