ARLINGTON, VA – December 16, 2010 – The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) welcomed the opportunity for greater fairness and transparency in the debit card market as the Federal Reserve issued proposed changes to how much companies can charge merchants each time their card is swiped.

“The Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ proposal demonstrates real progress toward a achieving a reasonable goal and having parity between checks and debit cards. Anything that can be done to take excessive costs out of grocery purchases is good for the consumer,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer at FMI. “The broken swipe fee market has resulted in outrageous fees on debit cards, making this convenient payment method less attractive than paper checks which have much lower fees. Today’s ruling is a first step toward providing relief for neighborhood grocers and their customers. FMI will continue to work with the Federal Reserve to ensure greater fairness and transparency in the broken swipe fee market as they finalize the rule."

FMI represents supermarkets and grocery stores across the country, including the nearly 60 percent who are small, independent supermarkets. We have been fighting for swipe fee reform for more than a decade, a period of time in which credit and debit card interchange fees have nearly tripled from $16 billion a year to roughly $50 billion in 2009.

“Swipe fees are the only business expense that is completely unpredictable,” said Sarasin. “The rates can increase at any time, which makes it extremely difficult for grocers to plan their budget.”

Debit card fees have been increasing every year. The big banks and credit card networks use hidden swipe fees and fine print to keep consumers and merchants in the dark.

“Visa’s PIN debit network, Interlink, processes an estimated 50 percent of all grocery store debit transactions,” said Sarasin. “Last spring, our members saw a 35 percent increase in the debit card fees from Interlink. It is time to fix this broken system and help bring savings to small businesses and consumers who are struggling today to make ends meet.”

FMI is also a founding member of the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC), a group of nearly 100 associations representing retailers, supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, fuel stations, online merchants and other businesses that accept debit and credit cards. FMI serves as the chairman of the legislative subcommittee of the MPC. FMI and the coalition have been fighting for more than 5 years for a more competitive and transparent card system. The coalition’s member associations collectively represent some 2.7 million stores with about 50 million employees.