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Grassroots interchange opposition strong and growing
WASHINGTON (6/2/10)--While the halls of Congress have emptied for the week, grassroots credit union advocacy regarding interchange legislation continues this week through both legislator-led town hall meetings and credit union activism on several fronts. One of those fronts is a Credit Union National Association-backed effort to verbally and electronically reach out to representatives, and this communication effort resulted in over 80,000 individual contacts as of Tuesday. CUNA is asking credit union backers to urge their legislators to oppose federal intervention into the current interchange rules. An amendment offered by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) which was successfully added to the Senate’s regulatory reform package would direct the Federal Reserve to issue regulations to govern interchange fees charged for debit card transactions. CUNA has recently said that this rule change forces the Fed into the role of a price-fixing body, when interchange fees should be driven by market forces. State credit union leagues have also chipped in to back credit union concerns, and Virginia- and Louisiana-based credit union leagues are among those that have joined state-level small banking associations to publicly oppose federal interchange intervention. Illinois Credit Union League President/CEO Daniel Plauda also publicly opposed the interchange changes, writing in a Springfield Journal op-ed that the “reality” of the proposed interchange legislation is that merchants are attempting to “push costs directly into the pocketbooks of the very people who use [the convenient card payment system] every day.” The interchange amendment will also “destroy the ability of small issuers, such as credit unions,” to provide debit and credit card services to their customers and members. Another opposing voice is some state governments, with The Washington Post on Tuesday reporting that a number of state treasurers are considering contacting federal lawmakers to detail their own concerns that proposed interchange fee limits “could endanger state programs that use prepaid cards to dispense crucial benefits.” As reported in the Post, a total of 47 states distribute some benefits via prepaid cards. The Post article also noted that retailers could potentially turn away customers that use government-provided prepaid cards or force those customers to meet an established minimum purchase amount to avoid using another form of payment.
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