WASHINGTON (2/25/09)—While there is no bill introduced in the House or Senate yet this year on interchange fees, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said Tuesday that it is only a matter of time until one is unveiled. Donovan, speaking to reporters covering CUNA’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference here, said “the merchants are ramping up” for the next round of effort to push for government intervention to cap fees charged merchants by the payment card network each time a consumer uses a card for a purchase. CUNA opposes such intervention and argues that the free market should set interchange fees, not the federal government. CUNA, and other opponents of government interference in interchange fees, say the fees have assisted the growth of universal acceptance of cards and the innovation of super-fast authorization technology and enhanced security measures—all benefits to card-using consumers. At its Tuesday afternoon GAC sessions, CUNA offered a breakout program on interchange fees, moderated by CUNA Federal Legislative Affairs Director Michele Johnson. The information session focused on what is likely to happen with interchange legislation in the 111th Congress, and what it means for credit unions. Johnson reiterated the expectation that there will be a bill introduced this year. Addressing the session participants were:
* Daniel Swanson, counsel to Sen. Dick Durbin of the Judiciary Committee who was a sponsor of interchange legislation in the last Congress; * Mark Caverly, executive vice president of Local Government FCU, Raleigh, N.C.; * Jennifer Hatcher, senior director, government relations, for the Food Marketing Institute; and *Jeffrey Tassey, of Tassey & Associates, also manager of the Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC) which advocates for the payment card industry on interchange legislation. CUNA is a member of EPC.
Caverly, the credit union executive, got a rousing favorable response when he said, “This is not a fight to be waged by MasterCard, Visa, or the large card issuers – it’s our fight.” He warned that the Merchants Payment Coalition, in favor of capping fees, is attempting to link the interchange issue to predatory lending and the sub-prime mortgage crisis. “Credit unions have much to lose, but perhaps more importantly, our members have much to lose,” Caverly said, and encouraged, “ It’s time to tell our story on Capitol Hill.”