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NRF welcomes Federal Reserve's commitment to swipe-fee reform

WASHINGTON -- The National Retail Federation announced that it welcomed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's commitment to complete final swipe fee reform regulations in time for retailers to begin offering customers discounts and other benefits this summer as scheduled.

“Retailers want to begin passing on swipe fee savings to their customers as soon as possible, and today’s announcement means those plans will be able to move forward as planned despite the anti-consumer efforts of some in Congress,” NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “The Fed has received thousands of comments on this proposal and it is appropriate for that input to be carefully and thoroughly reviewed. If they take a few extra weeks, we understand.”

According to NRF, Bernanke said that the high volume of comments received by the Fed and the issues they have raised mean the agency will slip beyond an April 21 deadline to complete final regulations. But he acknowledged that swipe fee reform legislation enacted last year will take effect on July 21 even without regulations and said “we are committed to completing the rulemaking for that provision in advance of that date.”

Regulations proposed by the Fed in December would lower debit card swipe fees from their current level of 1% to 2% of each transaction to a flat fee of no more than 12 cents per transaction for large banks that adhere to fees set by the card companies. Banks that set their own rates would be free to charge any fee they believe the market would bear provide that they do so independently. The move would reduce the current $20 billion a year in debit swipe fees by about 70%, or $1.2 billion a month. Financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets are exempt.