WASHINGTON — In a first-ever webcast meeting of the Federal Reserve Board Thursday, its members voted unanimously in favor of a proposed rule that would limit debit-card interchange fees.
Directed by Congress in the financial reform legislation that passed this year to ensure that debit-card interchange fees are "reasonable and proportional" to the costs incurred by issuers, the Board suggested two alternatives, one of which would allow issuers a "safe harbor" interchange fee of 7 cents per transaction, based on the median actual cost, while the other would cap debit-interchange at 12 cents per transaction.
"The Federal Reserve Board of Governors' proposal demonstrates real progress toward a achieving a reasonable goal and having parity between checks and debit cards," said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va. "Anything that can be done to take excessive costs out of grocery purchases is good for the consumer."
In a prepared statement, Peter J. Larkin, president and chief executive officer, National Grocers Association, said NGA "strongly believes there should be no swipe fees on debit transactions similar to the way checks are treated today."
"However, the Federal Reserve has taken an important step to fulfill Congress' intent to reform debit swipe fees this year."
The proposed rule is open for public comment until Feb. 22.