Shifting Alliances On Debit Rule

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WASHINGTON – A major technology group comprised of some of the biggest corporations shifted its position on the proposed delay in debit rules a week after expressing support for the delay.

TechNet, which represents T-Mobile, Netflix, Apple and Dell, among others, retracted its support for a bill to delay rules that would limit the fees banks charge retailers when consumers use debit cards.

“The additional time proposed by Sen. [Jon] Tester is a common sense solution,” TechNet President Rey Ramsey wrote in a letter to lawmakers on April 6. On Tuesday, he wrote another letter, telling lawmakers, “We would like to clarify that our position on the Tester proposal is neutral.” Ramsey said yesterday the group, which includes card giant Visa, had not properly vetted its position on the debit fees issue before issuing the previous statement in support of the delay.

The about-face comes as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) told lawmakers its position on the rule was misrepresented to Congress last week and it opposes the delay.

In March, the NAACP wrote that the limits “should be further examined fully to ensure that they do not have a negative impact on the communities they were meant to help.” But this week the NAACP explicitly said it did not support a delay on implementing the new limit, but that it wants to see the Federal Reserve conduct a “swift review” of the proposed rules, which it criticized as “too strict.” The group maintained that the call for a review should not be misconstrued as opposition to debt fee limits in general, calling the current system “uncompetitive, non-transparent, and harmful to consumers, particularly low- and middle-income consumers.”

The reversals come after the credit union- and bank-backed Electronic Payments Coalition was promoting the two groups’ positions to support its own efforts to delay the Durbin amendment, which will set price caps on debit fees.

Sen. Tester has proposed a bill to delay implementation of the rules for two years while the Fed conducts a comprehensive study of its impact. The rule is scheduled to become effective July 21.


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