The Credit Card Competition Act bill appears unlikely to be passed by Congress this year despite a major push from its champion, the powerful Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin.
Durbin, who has waged a years-long effort to rein in what he calls the Visa-Mastercard duopoly, sponsored the bill this year in an effort to inject more competition into the card industry. The Illinois senator wrangled a Republican co-sponsor, Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, and a companion bill also had bipartisan sponsorship in the House. A spokesperson for Durbin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bill would have mandated that merchants have access to card networks other than Visa and Mastercard for routing credit card transactions. In 2010, Durbin successfully won passage of an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that imposed a similar requirement on debit transactions.
“We are focused on the next session of Congress and look forward to seeing this pro-consumer, bipartisan bill become law next year,” said National Association of Convenience Stores General Counsel Doug Kantor in an emailed statement.
The other side weighed in too. “EPC remains focused on defeating this deeply unpopular legislation that would harm consumers through higher costs, weakened security, and reduced access to credit for those who need it most,” EPC Chairman Jeff Tassey said in an emailed statement.
The legislation built on earlier efforts by Durbin to dislodge the duopoly that he sees as having worked hand-in-glove with bank card issuers to increase interchange “swipe” fees for merchants and retailers.
But the Senate bill didn’t win significant legislative support and never received a committee hearing after being introduced in July, and the same was true for the House bill introduced just a few months ago in September.
The bill got caught up in the years-long battle between retailers and payments companies over such curbs on electronic transactions. While the National Retail Federation and Merchants Payments Coalition egged on the legislation, arguing that it would reduce rising card interchange fees, the Electronic Payments Coalition and other card interests fought it, saying it would hurt banks and consumers.
“With consumers and small businesses increasingly calling on Congress to do something about skyrocketing swipe fees, the question isn’t if this bill will pass but when,” said Kantor, who is also an MPC Executive Committee member. “Lawmakers know swipe fees are out of control and driving up prices for American families at a time when they can least afford it,” he said in the emailed statement.
The Merchants Payments Coalition unleashed an ad campaign backing the bill during the World Cup, aiming to grab attention at a major sporting event sponsored by Visa, the biggest U.S. card company.
Supporters of the legislation were hopeful that it might be attached to a major defense spending bill that had to be passed this year, but that didn’t happen. There could still be a last-ditch attempt to attach it to the omnibus spending bill making its way through Congress, but hope for that route has dimmed as other legislative priorities grab lawmakers’ attention in the race to leave Washington for the yearend holidays.