7-Eleven Inc. is using its 6,300 U.S. stores to try to gather one million signatures on petitions in an attempt to encourage Congress to change what 7-Eleven calls unfair and excessive credit card transaction fees, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Credit card companies charge retailers a fee for every transaction they make with their card, regardless of the size of purchase. Retailers have no power to negotiate the fees, which for c-stores totaled $8.4 billion last year, up 10.5% from 2007. That’s more than the $5.2 billion the industry made in profit, the National Association of Convenience Stores reported.
Last year, 7-Eleven paid $160 million to credit card companies, which prompted it to lead its current effort in fighting the fees by leading the lobbying effort, working with the NACS, which represents 146,000 stores nationwide. The petitions come on the heels of new pending credit card rules that Congress passed and that will go into effect in February prohibiting certain fees on consumers.
Petitions are prominently displayed at 7-Eleven checkout counters.Because 75% of 7-Eleven stores are owned by franchisees, the effort is a “Main Street” issue, spearheaded by small-business owners, said Darren Rebelez, 7-Eleven executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“The card companies merely pick a rate and then they charge away-no notice, no discussion. In fact, we rarely know before we start paying higher fees that the card companies have new rates,” said Keith Jones, a 7-Eleven lobbyist.
Meanwhile, banks and credit card companies argue stores don’t want to pay their share. The Electronic Payments Coalition, a group representing the banks and credit card issuers Visa and MasterCard,said interchange fees are just a cost of doing business and that the fees are negotiated, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The National Retail Federation, which represents retail companies of all sizes, estimates that U.S. retailers collected $48 billion in interchange fees last year. An average of $2 out of every $100 Americans spend goes to transaction fees, and the federation estimates the fees cost the average household $400 a year, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Three bills are pending before Congress that would allow merchants to negotiate for lower credit. The 7-Eleven petition drive will continue through Aug. 10. Top signature-gatherers from each of 7-Eleven’s seven U.S. geographical divisions will be flown to Washington to deliver the signatures to Congress.