Payment Processing News Roundup

February 8, 2012

Today The Official Merchant Services Blog is going to give you a roundup of the latest news that is affecting merchants and payment processing. Our goal is to keep you informed and up to date on all the important news developments in the industry. Armed with that information you can make the decisions and the moves to keep your business ahead of the curve. The news roundup today focuses mainly on The Durbin Amendment and its continued impact on consumers, merchants and processors. The Durbin Amendment will continue to have a major impact on processing throughout 2012, and we’ll continue to keep you abreast of the topic.

Durbin Reactions

The first story we bring you is from the Los Angeles Times and it’s about the fallout from the Durbin Amendment. The article, found here, states that by the end of last year 610,000 U.S. bank customers switched to a switched to a smaller institution to protest plans by major banks to impose monthly charges for using debit cards. The article says the data was reported by Javelin Strategy & Research in a report and that the 610,000 figure represented 11% of the overall 5.6 million people who switched banks in that time period. The article also noted that: “In addition to the 11% who joined the Bank Transfer Day movement in October, November and December, an additional 26% told Javelin that they switched not as part of the protest movement per se but because the banks charged too many fees.”

Host Merchant Services Predictions Confirmed

The next news item we’re reporting is from The Denver Post. In this article the Post reports pretty much exactly what Host Merchant Services predicted would happen in its Durbin Amendment Analysis article.

The Denver Post writes: “Instead of one new fee, prepare to be sold more products, offered new services, lose rewards and face more fees in general.”

In the HMS Article from 2011, we wrote: “Merchants will end up having to shoulder the burden of the extreme cuts in revenue that this cap brings. Those who predict that merchants will end up worse off by the amendment suggest that the banks, not wanting to take a $9 to $10 billion dollar loss in revenues for the year, will simply add fees to other payment options or get rid of premiums and extras that they had been offering merchants prior to the cap being put in place.”

So essentially the Denver Post reports that the banking industry is reacting as expected to the Durbin Amendment. We even did an entire blog making the statement that the banking industry was going to go in stealth mode like a ninja.

The Denver Post article also gives a recounting of the tale of the Durbin Amendment as it took center stage in the media spotlight. This entire tale was chronicled as it happened by The Official Merchant Services Blog both in its Countdown to Durbin Series, as well as its ongoing Durbin Coverage after the October 1, 2011 date that saw the bill’s provisions begin. The Denver Post recap is succinct and states: “Several other banks already had either imposed debit card fees or were testing them, and analysts had predicted the trend would spread to the entire industry. But BofA’s plan, which leaked out at the end of September, produced an enormous surge of criticism. Protesters from the Occupy movement, consumer advocates and even President Obama questioned the move, and an online movement called Bank Transfer Day emerged to encourage people to switch to small  banks and credit unions. Bank of America ultimately called off its plans without imposing the $5 charge, and the rest of the industry followed suit in allowing fee-free use of debit cards.”

Durbin Going Bye Bye?

The final piece of Durbin-related news comes to us from payment processing review site cardpaymentoptions.com. In this article, they give an extensive roundup of their predictions for 2012 — and one piece is sub-titled “Durbin May Get the Boot.” The article states the Durbin Amendment was originally designed to help merchants deal with high swipe debit card transaction fees, but now that it’s been in effect merchants are feeling the legislation has harmed them. The article specifically cites merchants getting hit with much higher for small ticket transactions — a noted loophole in the law that many media sources criticized while the amendment was still being discussed by Congress.

The article then makes this bold prediction: “Several retail organizations have brought suit against the Federal Reserve in order to repeal/modify the amendment and even the main author, Dick Durbin, has admitted the new law is flawed. With such disastrous results, merchants should expect to see the Durbin Amendment either repealed or greatly modified this year.”

The Official Merchant Services Blog has reported on a few of these suits as they’ve come up. And the backlash against Durbin has been significant. But with the election about to be in full swing it seems, to us at least, that the Durbin Amendment may continue to kick around for 2012. In fact, we’ve also reported that there is growing interest in a similar cap on credit card processing fees, swinging things even further in a direction that will burden consumers and incur ire with the banking industry. It just seems like it will be a lot more difficult to get rid of Durbin after it’s started and that the path of least resistance for Congress on this issue will be to continue to add to the law with more tweaks and changes, making it even murkier and over-legislated. That’s more the federal government’s style.

What do you think? Will 2012 see the end of the Durbin Amendment and the great experiment that was finance reform for payment processing fees? Or will the federal government just try to keep working with the law they have in place trying to smooth it out?

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