Maryland merchants resist passing on swipe fees -- Gazette.Net


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Retailers can start passing swipe fees along to customers this week, but not many — if any — in Maryland are doing so.

“I haven’t heard of any retailers that will charge the surcharges,” said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “About the only place I’ve ever seen it being done in any form is with gas stations that offer a price reduction if you pay in cash. But those are discounts and not really surcharges.”

Retailers were allowed to begin passing along the swipe fees Sunday due to a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed in 2005 against MasterCard, Visa and some financial institutions. Retailers have been essentially eating the 1 percent to 3 percent charges by banks to process credit card purchases, or already including them in all their prices.

Chevy Chase Supermarket, a 25,000-square-foot, family-owned store in Chevy Chase that dates to 1958, won’t be passing along the surcharges, according to its Facebook page. But owners also requested in a recent Facebook message that customers consider using debit cards rather than credit cards.

Supermarket co-owner Kevin Kirsch could not be reached for comment.

In 2011, the Federal Reserve limited what banks could charge to process debit-card payments to 21 cents, plus an additional 1 cent for fraud prevention in most cases. Credit-card swipe fees, on the other hand, were not capped.

Cashiers at Grand Mart International Food and Family Dollar in Gaithersburg said Wednesday they were not passing along credit-card surcharges. Target, Wal-Mart and other retailers also said they were not passing along credit-card swipe fees this week.

Retailers and their customers are saving as much as $18 million a day due to changes from the debit-card reforms, according to the National Retail Federation. Many are passing along savings, such as furniture giant Ikea, which is offering vouchers to customers who pay by debit cards and gas stations that accept debit cards at the same discount prices as cash, officials with the retail trade group say.

The credit-card issue comes down to who should “pay to support our nation’s incredibly efficient payment system,” according to the American Bankers Association. “Retailers, not consumers,” benefit from last summer’s legal deal, according to an association statement.

Ten states have laws restricting any type of swipe fees: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

Retailers that add swipe-fee charges must post signs saying they are doing so and also inform Visa and MasterCard that they plans to add the surcharge at least 30 days in advance.

kshay@gazette.net