WASHINGTON, June 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week's legislative victory securing swipe-fee reform represents more than a year's worth of focused work by restaurateurs nationwide, the National Restaurant Association said today.
"This was a total industry effort," said Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. "Individual restaurant operators, our state restaurant association partners, board members and chain partners across the country all played a significant role in enacting critical swipe-fee reforms last year and protecting those regulations with a vote in the Senate Wednesday."
"We know it was our members' consistent outreach to their elected officials that made the difference," said Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President of Political Advocacy for the Association. "The National Restaurant Association is grateful to represent such an engaged and passionate industry committed to growing jobs and providing value to our guests."
For more than a decade, the National Restaurant Association and its members, along with the Merchants Payment Coalition (MPC), have fought an intense battle for reforms to the broken interchange fee market, with a stepped-up effort in effect since early 2010. It was then that the Association played a key role in developing a strategy that would lead to the Durbin Amendment's ultimate inclusion in the financial services bill.
The National Restaurant Association and its allied trade associations saw an opportunity to use the financial services reform bill as a way to advance the long-standing anti-trust debate over the practices of the major card companies. Senator Dick Durbin has long understood the interchange issue, crediting restaurateurs and retail merchants in Illinois with driving home the reality of increasing card fees and the inability of the retail small business industry to do anything to control those costs.
"We made a critical decision in the spring of 2010 to reprioritize our issues and try to make a difference on swipe fees," said DeFife. "With 500 restaurant operators from 45 states in town for our annual public affairs conference, we saw an opportunity to drive home our message on swipe fees."
Members of the Illinois Restaurant Association discussed interchange reform with Senator Durbin in April 2010; similar discussions were repeated in state after state. The rest of the MPC associations also scheduled visits during the financial services bill debate and kept the waves of merchants coming to Capitol Hill all summer.
Under normal conditions, once a law is passed and the regulations stemming from that law are issued, the process plays out with little fanfare. But the Federal Reserve's preliminary calculations of what debit transactions actually cost to process was so low that the banks and debit cards mounted an intense effort to block and delay the regulations. As a result, the restaurant industry redoubled our efforts to protect the important economic victory.
During the Association's 2011 public affairs conference held this past April in Washington, approximately 500 restaurateurs made a final push to keep the debit-fee regulations moving forward. Swipe-fee reform was once again the top-priority issue, and restaurateurs from 44 states met with over 250 Capitol Hill offices to urge fair and reasonable debit card fees.
Over the past year, the nation's state restaurant associations coordinated intensive local efforts to get the word to local media about the importance of swipe-fee reform, organized visits to Washington, and mounted letter-writing and petition campaigns to encourage Congress to keep the Durbin Amendment's reforms on time and on track.
In addition to these grassroots efforts, the National Restaurant Association and other members of the Merchants Payments Coalition initiated multiple ad campaigns to educate Congress and the public about interchange fees.
SOURCE National Restaurant Association