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Retail Revolution: Congress Urged to Tackle Soaring Credit Card Fees

In a bold move, the National Retail Federation (NRF), the largest retail trade association in the nation, has called on Congress to pass the groundbreaking Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA). This bipartisan legislation, the NRF claims, carries the potential to alleviate a hefty burden on both consumers and businesses, potentially saving them a staggering $15 billion annually.

A Six-Figure Advocacy Push

Going the extra mile to ensure the CCCA’s success, the NRF recently unveiled a six-figure advocacy campaign aimed squarely at influencing members of Congress. Their message: it’s time to usher in a new era of credit card competition that could significantly reduce the exorbitant fees borne by merchants.

Cracking Down on “Swipe Fees”

At the heart of this issue are the notorious “swipe fees” charged by credit card companies to retailers each time a customer makes a card payment. In recent years, these fees have skyrocketed at an alarming rate, a fact lamented by Dylan Jeon, the NRF’s Senior Director of Government Relations.

A Cost Passed Down to Consumers

The real problem lies in the fact that these fees are not absorbed by retailers but are, in turn, passed on to consumers through elevated product prices. Shockingly, swipe fees now rank as the second-highest operating cost for retailers, trailing only behind labor expenses, according to Jeon.

A Troubling Escalation

In the year 2022 alone, there was a staggering 20% surge in these fees compared to the previous year, effectively inflating operating costs for retailers. This financial strain on businesses, coupled with the ongoing inflationary pressures, has had a dire impact on the average American family.

Bearing the Brunt

Last year, American families were hit hard, paying over $1,000 extra in higher prices due to these onerous swipe fees. The NRF foresees this figure rising unless Congress intervenes to “correct this market and introduce more competition,” argued Joen.

The Dominance of Visa and Mastercard

One of the key issues at hand is the dominance of Visa and Mastercard, often described as a duopoly, which essentially controls a staggering 80% of the credit card market. This monopoly enables them to dictate the swipe fees imposed by their member banks without any meaningful competition, according to Joen. This, in turn, greatly benefits the two giants.

A Lucrative Duopoly

To put this into perspective, Visa and Mastercard’s collected swipe fees ballooned from $61.3 billion in 2020 to a jaw-dropping $93.2 billion in 2022. Retailers, left with no choice, must accept these fees if they wish to continue accepting credit card payments.

Breaking the Duopoly

However, the CCCA, if passed, would break up this enduring duopoly. It would mandate the largest credit card-issuing financial institutions in the nation to facilitate a second processing network for transaction routing. The introduction of new competitors into the credit card market would compel the two dominant networks to vie for retailers’ business by enhancing services and lowering swipe fee rates.

Silence from Visa and Mastercard

As this crucial legislation gains momentum, representatives for Visa and Mastercard have remained notably silent, refraining from commenting on the matter.

In conclusion, the CCCA represents a potential turning point in the world of credit card fees, promising to inject much-needed competition and relief for both consumers and businesses. As the bill edges closer to a congressional vote, all eyes are on Capitol Hill to see if it can deliver on its promise of a fairer and more cost-effective credit card landscape.

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