Tester highlights Montana businesses concerned by price-fixing of debit card swipe fees

Senator also proposes shortened delay of swipe fee rule

(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today highlighted several Montana businesses concerned by the federal government’s plan to fix the price of debit card swipe fees.

Banks charge retailers a small fee for every debit card purchase in order to pay for the cost of the electronic transaction and to protect against fraud.

In July, the government plans to limit those fees below the actual cost of processing the transaction.  Tester says the move will hurt small businesses and consumers in Montana by forcing small banks make up for the cost of processing debit cards elsewhere—such as higher checking and lending fees.

Tester has introduced bipartisan legislation to delay the government price-fixing of debit card swipe fees, in order to examine its impact on rural America.  Today Tester said that after receiving feedback from colleagues, he will propose shortening the delay from 24 months to 15 months–the “bare minimum to get this study right.”

“For me, stopping and studying the unintended consequences of government price-fixing has everything to do with access to capital for small businesses and consumers in rural America,” Tester said today in speech on the Senate floor.

Tester also shared the concerns of several businesses, including Doris’ Day Care and Y-Not Trucking in Great Falls.  The owners of both businesses said they can’t afford to pay more in banking charges if the swipe fee limit goes into effect.

Cabela’s, a sporting goods chain with a store in Billings, also opposes the price-fixing of swipe fees.

“They have real concerns with government price controls and what they will mean for their ability to serve the needs of their customers,” Tester said. “The folks at Cabela’s will be asking, what’s next?  And will it hurt their loyal customers?”

Tester also said the Montana non-profit Rural Dynamics has similar concerns about limiting swipe fees.  Each year, Rural Dynamics helps thousands of Montanans become “economically independent” by offering financial advice and counseling services.

“Many of their strategies involve helping Montanans manage their assets and save for their future enabling them to access banking services,” Tester said of Rural Dynamics.  “And anything that would result in undue, higher fees would take that mission backwards.”

Tester’s remarks, prepared for delivery, are available online HERE.