The lead plaintiff in a merchant class-action lawsuit challenging the interchange rate-setting policies of Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide expects thousands of consumers to attend a rally Thursday at a Chevron gas station in Irvine, Calif., to support legislation that would slash credit card interchange rates. Merchant acquirers pay card issuers interchange and pass the expense on to their retailer clients as part of the discount rate. Mitch Goldstone, who owns an Irvine-based photo business, says the rally is designed to raise awareness of interchange, which can add up to 2% of the sale amount to each credit card transaction. "Most consumers have no idea that they are paying about $2 extra in interchange fees with each tank of gas and that Visa and MasterCard have no right to take this money out of their pockets," Goldstone tells CardLine. IN 2005, Goldstone filed a lawsuit alleging the card brands' interchange policies violate antitrust laws. More than a dozen similar suits were combined with the case, which is pending before Judge John H. Gleeson in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This week Goldstone is rallying support for the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, which Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced in March. The pending legislation would force card networks to negotiate interchange rates with retailers. If negotiations broke down, a three-judge panel, appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, would make the final decision through binding arbitration (CardLine, 3/7). Sen. Richard J. Durbin introduced companion legislation in the Senate in June (CardLine, 6/6). Lobbyists say a vote on the House bill could come as early as July 9, but industry insiders say legislation to alter interchange rates faces steep hurdles. The American Bankers Association, for example, last week circulated letters from members of the Justice Department and the FTC suggesting that they have reservations about the bill (CardLine, 6/25).

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