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President Obama Signs Financial Reform Bill

Months of battling between the retail industry and the big banks over financial reform legislation have come to an end, as President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last month.

Included in this piece of legislation are reforms to interchange fees, or "swipe fees," which banks and credit card companies charge merchants for accepting credit and debit cards. Specifically, the provision ensures fees charged for accepting debit cards are "reasonable and proportional" to cost, and allows merchants to offer discounts to customers for using less-expensive forms of payment.

At the signing was 7-Eleven franchisee Dennis Lane, who has owned his 7-Eleven convenience store in Quincy, Mass., for 36 years. Swipe fees are Lane's second-highest expense, behind labor costs.

"I am honored to be a part of this historic day," he said in a statement ahead of the signing. "The president's signature on this piece of legislation is a great victory in a hard-fought battle and is a clear win for Main Street businesses and our customers."

To support the legislation, Dennis traveled across the country to speak to lawmakers, other retailers and the media about the burden of interchange fees.

Other retail associations applauded the signing.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) President Sandy Kennedy said: "Today is a great day for retailers who have fought for years to bring fairness and transparency to a broken system. The swipe fee reforms signed into law today by President Obama will benefit America's retailers, small and large, and their customers by reining in the excessive debit swipe fees imposed by credit card companies and big banks."

She added: "We applaud leaders in Congress, specifically Senator Durbin, and Representatives Welch and Shuster for standing up for America's retailers and consumers, and we look forward to working with the Federal Reserve to ensure that the goals of reform are preserved as the rulemaking process moves forward."

And the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) thanked Congress and President Obama for passing the legislation.

"This bill represents the sort of Main Street stimulus that this country has been waiting for — and brings real, tangible benefits for merchants and their customers," the association said in a statement. "The president's signature on financial reform legislation gives us the ability to lower our costs, create more jobs, provide more benefits for our customers, and keep growing and contributing to the economy."

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation (NRF) praised the signing, but asked for more work towards achieving a major reduction in fees.

"This is a dramatic first step in the fight to control rising credit and debit card fees and has tremendous potential for savings, but we know the fight isn't over," NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said in a statement. "Congress realizes that debit cards are simply plastic checks, and has said the Federal Reserve should look at them with paper checks in mind." He added: "The result shouldn't be swipe fees being cut by a quarter or even a half. The result should be plastic checks that get paid at essentially face value."

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