• April 25, 2014

College Bookstores Back Bill That Could Lower Their Credit-Card Fees

Washington — College bookstores are supporting a bill in Congress that would allow them to negotiate the fees they pay banks when students make purchases with credit cards.

The stores say the fees, which average around 1.75 percent of a purchase, are passed on to students in the form of higher costs. Student groups also support the bill, HR 5546.

But opponents, including banks and some members of Congress, fear the bill could harm small banks and credit unions. They point out that there is nothing in the measure to ensure that cost savings are passed on to consumers.

College bookstores paid banks some $85-million in so-called interchange fees in 2003, according to an estimate from the National Association of College Stores, an industry group representing stores and vendors. The merchants have no say in the size of the fees they are charged.

The bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will vote on today, would create an exemption in antitrust law that would allow merchants, including bookstores, to negotiate the interchange fees with banks. The committee is expected to approve the bill. —Kelly Field

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