Most consumers who signed a petition circulated by 7-Eleven Inc. last summer to gather support for legislation to lower interchange fees were misled, MasterCard Worldwide announced today. A survey conducted by MasterCard revealed some 80%
of consumers who signed the petition "mistakenly believed" that consumers would directly benefit from a reduction of those fees, MasterCard said. Interchange fees are part of the discount rate merchants pay acquirers to accept payment cards. Retailer 7-Eleven last July launched a national petition drive that it says garnered 1.6 million signatures in support of interchange reform (CardLine, 7/6). 7-Eleven executives on Wednesday plan to deliver some 15,000 petition booklets to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. as part of a renewed push for interchange-rate reform, which merchants say costs them $48 billion annually. Legislation U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., proposed earlier this year would require merchants to enter into collective-bargaining agreements with issuers when setting interchange rates (CardLine, 6/10). MasterCard said its survey shows that while many consumers surveyed initially said they would support legislation to regulate merchant fees, some 75% said they would oppose such legislation once it was explained that it could cost them more through higher fees to use their payment cards, MasterCard says. Some 73% of consumers surveyed agreed that "the cost of accepting credit card payments" is a business cost merchants should bear, while 71% agreed that it would not be fair for consumers to pay the merchants' cost of operating a credit card system. KRC Research, on behalf of MasterCard, conducted an online survey of 1,002 U.S. adults in August and a telephone survey of 1,001 U.S. adults this month. In a conference call today, Chris McWilton, MasterCard's president of U.S. Markets, said merchants are "building on anti-bank sentiment" to push for interchange reform which could result in savings merchants will likely pocket instead of passing on to consumers.