Taking It to the Pumps

NACS wraps up anti-credit-card fee campaign as legislators return to Washington

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

WASHINGTON -- Convenience store retailers' recent campaign to call on consumers to help fight credit-card fees is being called a winner. "The program was a fantastic success," said Jeff Lenard, vice president of communications for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), which led the program. "Our objective was to get the message out to consumers and Congress, and the feedback on both fronts has been 'message received'."

The pumptopper program launched by NACS was designed around legislators' recess from Congress August 1 through September 6, as they returned to their home [image-nocss] districts. Retailers were encourage to download free pumptopper graphics from the NACS website to educate motorists on credit-card fees and encourage them to call on elected officials to support the Credit Card Fair Fee Act.

"It's difficult to provide metrics on how many retailers installed pumptoppers," Lenard told CSP Daily News. "What we do know is that our site had more than 1,000 downloads of the artwork, but this doesn't tell us if a download was used at one pump or 1,000."

For example, Alain Bouchard, president and CEO of Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., reported in late July that the company would be taking part in the program. "We want to pressure politicians, and we want to have the consumer aware of this," he said at the time, as previously reported in CSP Daily News. Couche-Tard has more than 3,000 stores in 33 states in the United States.

The pumptopper campaign also gained the attention of the Electronics Payment Coalition (EPC), a lobbying group representing the credit-card companies, which attempted to deter retailers from participating. (Click here for previous coverage.)

Both the House (H.R. 5546) and Senate (S. 3086) have introduced bipartisan legislation to examine credit-card fees, specifically the interchange rate, which at 1.8% is the highest of any industrialized country. The House bill was passed by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in July, while the Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved by the Committee, it will move to the Senate floor for debate."

In 2007, credit-card fees cost c-stores $7.6 billion, more than double the c-store industry's profits of $3.4 billion. So far this year, credit-card fees have topped 10 cents per gallon, while the markup per gallon has averaged only 11 cents, NACS reported in August.

While the Credit Card Fair Fee Act would not immediately alleviate the issue, it would allow retailers to negotiate directly with credit-card companies for fair fees.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
View More Articles By Abbie Westra