Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"The Guys Who Took On Visa and MasterCard" (

[repost from Feb 15]

Although our California-based retail and online boutique photo service was the first to file this new round of antitrust complaints against Visa and MasterCard last June, as lead plaintiff and class representatives, we are now joined by many extraordinary people, companies and trade associations - representing millions of businesses across the nation.

One of our political hero's, California State Senator Joe Dunn once explained to us that when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance ... "with liberty and justice for all," that you "cannot have liberty without justice, and you cannot have justice without liberty."

In advance of Wednesday's Congressional hearings in Washington to address Visa and MasterCard's profiteering and illegal price-fixing issues -- related to windfall profits at the expense of motorists, we salute Senator Dunn and his passion to take on important consumer issues. His undeterred leadership took on tobacco and even the Enron scandal.

Now, in honor of the Olympics, the metaphoric torch has been passed. As two of his endearing advocates for liberty and justice, our profile is becoming the familiar name to inspire and represent interchange; we are taking on the banks' antitrust violations which force consumers and merchants to pay billions of dollars each year in hidden and unbridled fees.

But, we are not alone.

As Visa and MasterCard's bank-owned fiefdom is reaching their limits of despair, they plot schemes to limit exposure by reshuffling their board and selling off their legal liabilities onto the public. The thousands of banks which own these two giant card associations understand that their two core customer bases - merchants and cardholders - are lined up in this battle. Even Democrats and Republicans have drawn an impenetrable line and are joined together with leadership like U.S. Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) who is chairing the Feb 15th Law and Economics of Interchange Fees Hearing. Rep. Barton who chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce remarked in a Sept 15th Washington Post article (which also reported on that "the percentage fee system -- giving the bank more money just because a consumer bought more gas -- doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me."

Next Event: HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE -- 10 a.m today (Wed, Feb 15) -- Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee holds a hearing on "The Law and Economics of Interchange Fees." Interchange fees are assessed to business by credit card issuing institutions to compensate for the risk and expenses of processing transactions. Timothy Muris, counsel, O'Melveny & Myers LLP; Henry Armour, president and CEO, National Association of Convenience Stores; Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council; and Edward Mierzwinski, consumer program director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, testify.

The Facts: interchange was designed to pay for risks and costs for transacting electronic payments. The risks of fraud have been minimalized and also due to technology, the cost to complete a transaction is, like "Moore's Law" constantly declining.