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Credit-card fee outrage rising

SOURCETAG 09013144532583
PUBLICATION: The Kingston Whig-Standard
DATE: 2009.01.31
SECTION: Business
PAGE: 26

Credit-card fee outrage rising

Calls are rising for government action to scrutinize and control fees charged on credit cards.

The Retail Council of Canada says the system "is failing many Canadians," and the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition accuses the government of "negligence" in bank regulation.

The Retail Council, representing more than 40,000 store operators, says that at a time when many Canadians are struggling and businesses are challenged to decrease costs, the fees charged by credit card companies and banks are increasing.

It's urging the Senate to adopt the proposal of Senator Pierrette Ringuette for an investigation by the upper house's committee on banking, trade and commerce. The retailers say card fees are an enormous hidden cost for average Canadians, amounting to $4.5 billion a year.

Among other things, they're demanding to know why the fees merchants pay on credit card transactions - as much as 2% - increase with the size of the purchase, when a large transaction and a small one cost about the same to process.

The left-leaning Community Reinvestment Coalition, meanwhile, calls this week's Conservative budget proposals on credit cards and bank lending weak and negligent.

Coalition chairman Duff Conacher notes that credit cards have become an essential service - it's hard to buy an airline ticket or rent a hotel room without one, for example.

And he says the government "is continuing the negligence of past federal governments by subsidizing the big banks and other financial institutions with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars while failing to effectively require them to maintain loans to creditworthy customers and serve everyone fairly and well at fair prices." The Community Reinvestment Coalition favours requiring banks to prove through independent audits that their credit card and other interest rates and fees do not amount to gouging, with a public report issued by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.