Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadians face prospect of extra credit-card fees

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TORONTO -- Canadian shoppers who use credit cards may soon find themselves slapped with extra fees, if retailers win a fight against being stuck with transaction charges from Visa and MasterCard.

Retail organizations renewed their calls Tuesday for Ottawa to loosen credit-card regulations following a landmark ruling south of the border that could have implications for a case that will be decided by a federal tribunal later this year.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which has more than 100,000 member businesses, is calling for changes to the federally regulated code of conduct that would allow retailers more rights, including the ability to make credit-card users pay a surcharge or refuse credit cards at their stores.

If successful, their campaign would settle a gripe between retailers and credit-card operators, and allow merchants the freedom to either accept or deny certain credit cards at their registers.

"Merchants have had a 30 per cent increase in their costs in the last two years because of premium (credit) cards," said Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the CFIB.

"Those additional costs are finding their way into their service. Consumers are paying these fees already, and they're going up."

The CFIB wants merchants to have the ability to add surcharges on credit-card users that would counteract the transaction fees charged by some credit-card companies.

Currently Visa and MasterCard rules state merchants cannot levy any surcharges on credit-card users, forcing retailers to absorb the cost of usage.

Those fees -- ranging from 1.5 to three per cent of the value of customer purchases -- are about twice the rate credit-card firms charge merchants in Australia, New Zealand and many parts of Europe, but slightly below the U.S. average.

The issue has been of concern to the Competition Bureau, which argued in May restrictive contracts put in place by Visa and MasterCard allow the two credit-card companies -- which represent 92 per cent of the market -- to essentially dictate terms to merchants.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2012 B4

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