"We have absolutely lowered prices…[but] what I can't do is draw that direct correlation to Durbin."
Those are the words Dwaine Kimmet, Home Depot's treasurer and vice president of credit, used to describe the company's decision to lower prices on 3,000 products in a recent American Banker article entitled, "Home Depot Lowers Prices After Debit Swipe Fee Victory."
Despite the fact that these price cuts affect just 1.03% of the 290,000 items Home Depot offers to customers, the company continues to push the narrative that such extremely limited savings are "evidence" that government price controls work and consumers have benefitted.
Let's take a look at the facts.
During an earnings call on Feb. 22 of last year, Home Depot told shareholders that interchange price controls would add "$35 million a year" to the company's bottom line. Why should consumers now believe the company has chosen not to keep these newfound gains for themselves? It was – and still is – all about retailers increasing profit margins while providing no real benefit to consumers.
In fact, when Home Depot executives recently spoke to shareholders, they attributed a reduction in expenses to "rapid-deployment centers," with no mention of gains from government price controls, which have clearly gone right to their bottom line.
Big-box retailers like Home Depot continue to rake in billions annually from the Durbin Amendment, while consumers don't see savings they've been promised at the register. At the same time, consumers face higher costs for bank services, an entirely predictable result as institutions adjust to a 45% reduction in revenue they used to provide low cost accounts, fight fraud and maintain the payments system.
After retailers received an annual $7 billion gift from Congress, shouldn't consumers be entitled to a larger discount than savings on just 1.03% of the products a company offers? Don't be fooled by big retailers that continue to play fast and loose with the facts. Price controls and market interference have damaged the market and consumers continue to pay the price.
Kenneth Clayton is the executive vice president of legislative affairs and chief counsel at the American Bankers Association.