Most Concord Retailers Won’t Pass on ‘Swipe Fees’ to Customers

A settlement between credit card companies and retailers over “swipe fees” – the cost of use of a credit card – will soon allow retail establishments to pass that cost onto consumers.

The settlement was reached last summer after a number of large retailers complained in 2005 about the artificially high fees and alleged collusion between the banks and credit card issuing companies. The settlement is valued at more than $7 billion.

The settlement also allowed retailers to pass future costs onto consumers, issuing a 1.5 to 4 percent “checkout” credit card fee onto the purchase cost. Ten states, including three in New England, but not New Hampshire, have banned retailers from passing on the cost.

However, a lot of small retailers in Concord, when asked about whether they would take advantage of the new rules, said no.

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, the co-owner of The Draft on South Main Street, said he didn’t plan on passing on the cost at this time.

“Credit card companies have always charged store owners a percentage of the sale every time someone uses their card and (I’d) like to think that everyone has built that expense into their costs,” he said.

Brian Shea, the owner of The Barley House, agreed.

“We will not be passing it on,” he said. “We will wait and see how businesses react, but I consider it part of doing business.”

Shea said as a consumer, he wouldn’t want to see the additional charge on his receipt. At the same time, restaurants like his realized that costs get passed on, one way or another.

“This is a challenge for small business because they do not have the clout of a large enterprise to negotiate for better rates and must decide if or how to pass on costs,” Shea said. “Competition is such that it would be very difficult to pass on every additional cost which sometimes can beat up a small business pretty good.”

While he considers plastic a part of doing business too, Brian Blackden, the owner of Pepper Defense Supply on North State Street, said a lot of people don’t carry cash. But, on gun purchases, he will give a discount, if a customer does pay in cash.

Kim Lyden-Ricker, the owner of The Office Suite, also will not be passing on the cost. However, she added, when it comes to Amex, they may.

“If we have a large American Express Charge, we will have the consumer pay it,” she said.

Michael Hermann, the owner of Gibson’s Bookstore, said, “of course not,” adding that books had a retail price on them.

Both Tim Sink, the president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, and Michele Talwani, the director of Economic Development and Marketing of Families in Transition – New Horizons, the organization that owns and runs the OutFITers Thrift Stores, also said they had no plans on passing credit card fees onto customers.

What do you think? Should retailers be allowed to pass on a checkout fee to customers who use credit cards? Should New Hampshire pass a law to ban checkout fees? Leave a note in the comment section.

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