Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Riddle: What’s The Difference Between The Cost To Send An Email And An Electronic Payment? $40 billion each year! (

As our company continues to make news for the super-fast photo scanning business we built that is transforming the photo imaging industry and using technology to slash prices for preserving generations of photo snapshots, we wondered why technology has not also led to rock-bottom and tumbled-down interchange fees?

To be more transparent and divulge just how ghoulish this hidden tax is, Visa® and MasterCard® should post the exact interchange fee for each transaction as a separate item on every debit and credit card receipt. We first raised this issue in January, 2006, but they seem too busy figuring out how to go public to distance the banks from our alleged antitrust violations. If they would only pause from what we assert is their attempt to pass along the liability from this litigation onto the public, and instead, agree to post the exact interchange fees on every receipt, then, all merchants and cardholders would understand why we are so passionate about this issue. There would no longer be a hidden tax, but, rather a very vocal cascade of resistance against the peddlers of these unfair fees.

Why are the merchant interchange fees about 1.7% in the U.S. and as low as zero in other nations? And, as other electronic transactions have been slashed too rock-bottom, why have some of their rates [ex. debit cards] tripled in the past 8-years?

Let us pause for a brief study break and review the historical way of sending ["transmitting"] a traditional letter and the processing of a charge slip. In the previous decade, if you wanted to send a letter, you generally bought stationary, an envelope, postage and drove to the Post Office to mail it; days later it was received. Also about ten years ago, merchants, like us, had to stock up on thick, multi-page, carbon-copy charge card receipts, swipe the payment cards through a manual imprinter, mail it to the processing company on the other coast [Florida]. Then, days later, the transaction - less a substantially lower interchange fee than today - was credited to your bank account. As technology advanced, instead of lowering interchange fees, it has actually leaped ahead.

Today, we all use email, and essentially, it is free. Could you imagine if the two leading credit card associations and its thousands of member banks were also involved with the exploration of the Internet? Using their surreptitious market power and pricing domination, every electronic [email] "letter" would come with a beefed-up fee. But, the actual cost to use the Internet network to transmit an electronic message, must be about the same as the cost to transmit an electronic payment on its network, so why are the banks still granted the potency to exert such immense multi-billion-dollar hidden taxes on merchants, cardholders and our economy?