ATLANTA and DULUTH, Ga. (6/30/10)--"A controversial [interchange] provision in the financial reform bill pending in Congress should be a big concern for consumers and needs to be taken out," said Mike Mercer, president/CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, in a pro-and-con op-ed published Monday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Referring to the interchange amendment in the bill pending before Congress, the publication had asked, "Should the Fed regulate 'swipe fees' for debit cards?" "No, the fees offset risks born by card issuers and lower fees will mean fewer debit card issuers," said Mercer. The amendment "should be separated from the bill and debated on its own merits" because there are "too many unaddressed and unanswered questions in this hastily prepared add-on," he wrote. Networks currently setting interchange fees "must balance the interests of the merchants and financial institutions: Charge too much and stores will not accept the cards; charge too little and financial institutions will not offer cards to consumers," Mercer wrote. "What factors will the Fed use to set the interchange rate? Will it cover all operating costs such as fraud, card issuance and call center operations?" he asked. Merchants benefit from accepting debit and credit cards because they are immediately paid at the point of sale and do not have to handle cash and bounced checks or wait for a check to clear. Nothing in the law requires merchants to pass their savings to consumers, Mercer said, adding, "What safeguards exist to ensure that consumers will benefit?" "The interchange fee helps credit unions offset the operational expenses and risk of an electronic payment system that supports popular products consumers want, need and enjoy. As not-for-profits, credit unions generally offer lower-priced card services," he said. "The interchange amendment may destroy the ability of small issuers, such as credit unions, to provide debit card services to their members," he said, adding, "The very real possibility is that the amendment will actually increase payment costs and decrease convenience for consumers." The "Yes" viewpoint was presented by the Georgia Retail Association President John Heavener, who argued that swipe fees hurt small retailers and drive up costs for consumers. For the full opinions, use the link.