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C-stores Bring Congress 2 Million New Signatures Urging Swipe Fee Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Building on 7-Eleven's successful "Stop Unfair Credit Card Fees" consumer petition campaign, convenience store operators yesterday delivered an additional 2 million new customer signatures collected during the NACS "Stop Unfair Swipe Fees" campaign, which asked Congress to put an end to unfair, hidden credit and debit card swipe fees.

"Today 2 million Americans added their voices to the chorus calling for fairness for the small businesses that drive our economy. Two million more Americans are recognizing that swipe fees kill good-paying, local jobs and drive up costs for consumers. Two million more Americans are saying 'enough is enough.' We must take action to rein in the abusive practices of the credit card industry and ensure that small businesses get a fair deal," said U.S. Representative Peter Welch (Vt.-At Large), who along with Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.), joined the c-store retailers at a press conference in the nation's capital.

Combined with 7-Eleven's 1.7 million signatures urging swipe fee reform, the total number of signatures delivered to Congress thus far is 3.7 million -- the largest number of consumer signatures ever collected for a public policy issue.

American consumers and merchants pay $48 billion each year in credit and debit card swipe fees -- more than twice those charged in countries like the United Kingdom and Australia. In fact, this week, Visa Europe agreed to slash some of the fees charged for debit card transactions in Europe, while debit rates in the U.S. have continued to climb, according to NACS, which represents more than 2,200 retail and 1,800 supplier member companies.

"Swipe fees cost Americans more than late fees, over-the-limit fees, annual fees, cash advance fees and ATM fees combined," NACS President and CEO Hank Armour said. "Small businesses across the country are struggling to pay these huge fees. It's bad enough that tough economic conditions are forcing many retailers to lay off employees or shut their doors because they cannot sustain growth, on top of paying unfair card fees that they cannot negotiate. Congress needs to take action and that action needs to come today."

Rep. Shuster, who introduced legislation to reform swipe fees, agreed. "As a former small business owner, I know how hard it is to make a payroll, pay taxes and fees, and try to make a profit all at the same time," he said. "For far too long, interchange fees have been an unnecessary impediment for businesses, and that needs to change. It is my hope that Congress will consider the merits of our bill, as well as the serious struggle of business owners and consumers alike in their need for transparency, simplicity and fairness when it comes to the issue of interchange fees."

NACS Chairman Jay Ricker, CEO of Ricker Oil Co., said it's pretty crazy to think that the credit card companies make more off of most small stores than the owners do. "But that's the case these days," he said. "From coast to coast, convenience stores pay more in fees to the credit card companies than they make in profits each year. Millions of Americans have signed these petitions and urged Congress to take action against unfair swipe fees. It's time for Congress to step up to the plate and fix this broken system."

Swipe fee reform would provide an everyday economic stimulus that wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime, noted Sonja Hubbard, former NACS chair and CEO of E-Z Mart Stores. "Turning down a solution as simple and straight-forward as swipe fee reform is a slap in the face to the 3.7 million consumers who have stated very clearly that they care about this issue," she said.

U.S. senators will receive the signature of each customer who signed the petition in their state, according to NACS. And today, Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Cos. Inc. (Urbandale, Iowa), will testify on behalf of NACS at a hearing on H.R. 2695, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

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