(Adds remarks about U.S. growth, background on credit cards)
By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, Sept 4 The Canadian government wants
credit card companies and banks to voluntarily agree to lower
transaction fees paid by retailers, and to do so within months,
Finance Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday.
"We've said in last year's budget that the government will
work with stakeholders to promote fair and transparent practices
and to help lower credit card acceptance fees for merchants and
also to encourage merchants to reduce prices for consumers,"
Oliver told a news conference.
"We would like to see this proceed on a voluntary basis at
this point ... We're looking at months, not years, obviously,"
Oliver also said he was encouraged by renewed economic
growth in the United States but said this needed to be sustained
before Canadian businesses would commit to major capital
expenditures, something critical for economic growth.
Asked whether he had met the credit card companies or banks
to discuss lowering fees, Oliver replied: "We have had meetings,
yes." Pressed as to the timing, he said: "The last little
The so-called interchange fee is set by the payment networks
and is passed along to card issuers, which include banks.
The Canadian government promised in its budget released
earlier this year to take steps to promote lower credit card
acceptance costs for merchants.
The government said merchants pay fees ranging from
approximately 1.5 percent to 4 percent of the value of credit
card payment transactions, costs which are passed on to
consumers in the form of higher retail prices. Canada has among
the highest credit card acceptance costs in the world, according
to the government.
Last year, Canada's Competition Tribunal dismissed a
complaint from the Competition Bureau about the rules imposed on
merchants by the Canadian arms of MasterCard and Visa
Major U.S. retailers such as Target and Amazon
have accused Visa and MasterCard of fixing fees charged
to merchants when their customers use credit or debit cards.
In July, a U.S. federal judge declined to dismiss antitrust
lawsuits filed against Visa and MasterCard by retailers who
opted out of a class action settlement in 2012 over transaction
(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren in
Ottawa; Editing by Tom Brown)