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In a groundbreaking joint effort by the nation's fastest-growing union and trade associations representing merchants, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), and the National Grocers Association (NGA) yesterday sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives calling on Congress to stop the nation's biggest banks and credit card companies from continuing what they consider to be abusive practices that harm American consumers and businesses.
The groups jointly urged Congressional action to pass the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2008 (H.R. 5244), the Credit Card Fair Fee Act (H.R. 5546 and S. 3086), and the Credit Card Interchange Fees Act of 2008 (H.R. 6248).
"The biggest banks have put working families and the economy on a rollercoaster -- but regulators aren't paying enough attention to make sure it doesn't go off the track," said Stephen Lerner, director of the SEIU Private Equity Project. "Lawmakers and regulators have to act before the fees and bad practices hurting consumers derail the economy altogether."
Tom Wenning, s.v.p. and general counsel of NGA, added, "Credit card abuse is incredibly frustrating for our members. They see how much money is taken out of their businesses in credit card fees, and then they see the high rates and fees they get hit with as individual consumers. The credit card companies hit all of us twice -- and many people don't even know it."
Last year alone, banks made $42 billion in interchange fees, according to the trade groups. The top 10 banks issued 88 percent of the credit cards and made the vast majority of those fees.
Members of Congress have introduced bills designed to make changes. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), introduced the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights on Feb; 7, 2008; Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) introduced the Credit Card Fair Fee Act on March 6, 2008; Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) introduced the Senate companion to the Credit Card Fair Fee Act on June 5, 2008; and Rep. Peter Welch introduced the Credit Card Interchange Fees Act of 2008 on June 11, 2008.