Lawmakers Ask Visa, Mastercard to Scrap Fee Hikes

U.S. lawmakers from both major parties, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have asked Visa and Mastercard to drop plans to increase some fees, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday (April 15).

The Journal previously reported that the two payment networks planned to hike the fees, called “interchange fees,” they charge merchants for processing cards, beginning this month.

Four lawmakers sent a letter to the companies stating that merchants would pass increased fees on to consumers.

Higher costs are “the last thing American families deserve right now,” the letter states, according to the Journal, which stated that a reporter had seen the communication. In addition to Durbin, the Journal reported, the letter was signed by fellow Democrat Peter Welch of Vermont and Republican Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Beth Van Duyne of Texas.

According to the Journal, Visa and Mastercard representatives have said in the past that the fees help cover innovation and security measures.

“Electronic payments play a critical role every day and have proven even more valuable since the start of the pandemic,” a Mastercard spokesman said Friday, according to the Journal. “And that’s why we’re seeing merchants encouraging their customers to use electronic forms of payment due to the significant value that they receive in return—a safe, convenient experience and a guaranteed payment.”

The Journal said a Visa representative could not be reached for comment.

Many of the fee increases expected this month were delayed during the past two years because of the pandemic. Durbin and Welch have previously asked the networks to call off planned fee increases.

Visa and Mastercard had planned to increase and decrease fees, with the benefits redounding to small businesses or businesses making purchases of less than $5.

The chairman of the Electronic Payments Coalition, Jeff Tassey, reportedly told the Journal: “The April adjustments will lower interchange fees for most small businesses. This letter is evidence that big box retailers don’t like that.”

The Journal quoted data from an industry publication indicating that merchants paid about $55 billion in Visa and Mastercard interchange fees in 2021, twice the 2012 figure.

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