Industry News | April 23, 2009

Canadian Restaurants Ask for Transparency on Card Fees

Despite testimony in the Senate over the past few days, Canadian restaurateurs are still baffled by the skyrocketing credit card fees being charged to restaurants each time a customer pays with Visa or MasterCard.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce heard from credit and debit card company representatives this week during its investigation into fees charged to merchants and consumers. Despite repeated calls from Senators for an explanation of fees, Visa and MasterCard blamed the payment processors that charge fees to merchants and avoided questions about all other credit card fees.

"It's a simple matter of truth and transparency," says Justin Taylor, vice president of Labor and Taxation for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). "If the top credit card executives can't explain the fees, how can we expect restaurateurs to understand them? The fact that these companies refuse to be held accountable for their fees is shameful." During Wednesday's testimony, Visa and MasterCard also defended their plans to introduce new, high-cost debit products. "Credit card companies argue that their debit products will enhance consumer choice, but we don't buy it," Taylor says. "We've seen it happen before. Banks will use reward points to lure customers into using the higher-cost debit product. In the end, merchants and customers will be paying more for a new service that no one except the credit card companies needs, or wants."

The head of Interac also appeared before the Senate, outlining a plan to change Interac into a for-profit commercial entity that will be "more innovative."

"If more bells and whistles mean consumers and merchants will be charged higher fees, restaurateurs are not on board," Taylor says.

In its written submission to the committee, CRFA explained how the unfair practices of credit card companies and banks are leading to significant increases in costs for restaurant operators - and to higher menu prices for consumers. One of Canada's largest business associations, CRFA represents independent and chain restaurants, bars, contract and social caterers, hotels and other foodservice providers. CRFA is a member of the Stop Sticking It To Us Coalition, a group of Canadian associations representing more than 120,000 businesses that have joined forces to put a stop to skyrocketing credit card fees.

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