WASHINGTON (10/5/11)--With the public backlash against the debit account actions of Bank of America and other large institutions continuing to grow, interchange rule author Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said “now is the moment” for credit unions and other small institutions to make the superior benefits and customer service offered by their institutions “crystal clear” to these consumers. In a letter to the Illinois Credit Union League, the Illinois Bankers Association, and the Community Bankers Association of Illinois, Durbin noted that many consumers are looking to move their accounts away from “Wall Street giants” to smaller institutions, and he urged smaller institutions “to seize this competitive opportunity.” The senator made similar remarks in a floor statement earlier this week, and is planning to release legislation that would make it easier for bank customers to transfer their accounts between financial institutions. Durbin sought to reassure credit unions and community banks on such issues as the viability of the two-tiered interchange system and potential steering by merchants. For instance, he said he is alert to the possibility “that Visa and MasterCard might act in collusion with large banks to adjust rates over time in a way that diminishes the ability of smaller institutions to issue debit cards.” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is monitoring merchants for any signs that they are steering consumers away from using debit cards issued by institutions that are not subject to the cap, and has developed a website to help consumers and credit unions report any instances of steering. CUNA is also working with regulators to ensure the two-tiered interchange system is followed.