After years of a vitriolic multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, calls for rarely granted antitrust exemptions and demands that Congress rewrite this country's laws to undermine free markets, what benefit would the American consumer get from merchants? Free gift wrapping.

That's what the head of the Merchant Payments Coalition told members of the House Financial Services Committee recently during a hearing on legislation that would put price controls on the small fee merchants pay for the multiple benefits they receive from accepting credit and debit cards, and sharply curtail competition among the thousands of banks and credit unions offering American cardholders the world's broadest choice of payments options.

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