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Retail Debit Fees May Be Capped

The beleaguered banking industry suffered yet another blow Thursday evening after the Senate voted to impose price controls on debit transactions, a move that follows years of begging by retailers for governmental limits on the high charges demanded by banks every time a consumer swipes a debit card. The amendment is in a bill that still must win Senate approval.–JCL

The New York Times:

Retailers have begged Congress for years, in vain, to limit the fees they must pay to banks when customers swipe credit or debit cards. Bills never reached a vote. Amendments were left on the table. The Senate did not even grant the courtesy of a committee hearing.

That long record of futility ended in a landslide Thursday night. Sixty-four senators, including 17 Republicans, agreed to impose price controls on debit transactions over the furious objections of the beleaguered banking industry.

The amendment to the Senate’s sweeping financial legislation could save billions of dollars for family restaurants and dry cleaners, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, and every other business whose customers increasingly pay with debit cards. It does not address credit card fees directly.

Consumers also could save money, particularly at businesses like grocery stores that compete on price. But some experts warned that lower profit margins could lead banks to curtail bank card reward programs.

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