New Ally in Interchange Struggle...

Anheuser-Busch pledges support to NACS battle against credit-card fees

LAS VEGAS -- The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the retail community in general gained an unexpected ally this week in its fight against unfair credit-card interchange fees: Anheuser-Busch. While noting that the beer company typically stays out of the political and legal matters facing wholesalers and retailers, Joe Vonder Haar, vice president of the convenience channel for A-B, said this is an issue that has been around too long to ignore.

"This one impacts our consumer, our end customers and our partners in the c-store industry," Vonder Haar told [image-nocss] CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview, "and we're really compelled to take a public stance on behalf of the initiative [for change] as it relates to interchange fees because it clearly is one that requires some equity for the American shopper."

To that end, A-B sent a letter to NACS president Hank Armour on Tuesday pledging public support for NACS' efforts in Washington to force change to the way interchange fees are determined. Vonder Haar acknowledged that the statement of public support is likely only a first step for A-B in aiding the credit-card struggle.

"It's a beginning. The first step is the public support of NACS' drive and adding that credibility to the fight. The next steps will be told as time go by. We we'll lend support depending on how the issue unfolds," he said. "It will be up to some higher level dialogue now, but the door is now open to have those dialogs."

Vonder Haar is also hopeful that A-B's letter will spur other suppliers to lend support, as well.

"I'd like to see that through our relationship with the Supplier Board at NACS that there will be a call to action for other suppliers to do something similar.... It breaks the damn and it adds more credibility," he said. "The true value of this remains to be seen, but it's a first step in terms of the suppliers to this community stepping up and being part of it because [the c-store] customer is our customer."

"It's time for the leading suppliers of this industry to act like leaders, and I would challenge the other category leaders to take that role as well."

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