Finance Minister Joe Oliver is winning praise from two national business groups with new rules on credit card fees, but a coalition of business owners representing grocers, travel agents, convenience store owners and other associations say Ottawa is not doing enough.
Mr. Oliver announced an update to the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry Monday that expands the voluntary code to include mobile payments involving smart phones. The code also requires premium credit cards to be clearly branded and for consumers to be informed of the fees that cards impose on business owners.
Two business groups who were invited to join Mr. Oliver for the Toronto announcement – the Retail Council of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – both praised the measures.
"The number one issue was the high cost of accepting credit cards," said CFIB President Dan Kelly, in summarizing his organization's lobbying efforts over the past couple of years.
However another coalition of small business owners that was not invited to the event says the Conservative government's announcement falls short.
The Small Business Matters Coalition, representing over 98,000 businesses in Canada, said they welcomed the announcement but that the fees charged by MasterCard and Visa are still too high.
"We continue to believe as a coalition that the fundamental and most important issue remains that of high credit card fees and we are not satisfied as a coalition that there has been a meaningful or significant step in the right direction in that area," said Gary Sands, who chairs the coalition and is also vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. The coalition also includes the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, the Independent Petroleum Marketers and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, among other industry associations.
Monday's announcement was a follow-up to one in November in which Visa and Mastercard agreed to reduce their fees charged to businesses to an average of 1.5 per cent. Mr. Sands said that premium cards generally charge more than that and businesses like travel agents and grocers who tend to see a lot of premium credit cards will likely keep paying higher fees.
He also says that the 1.5 per cent target is far higher than the fees charged by MasterCard and Visa in other countries.
Mr. Oliver did not address the concern directly in his news conference and his office declined comment.
When asked whether consumers will see lower prices as a result of Monday's announcement, Mr. Oliver said consumers can shop around for the best prices.
"People have choices and consumers can move to retail outlets which are not making additional charges," he said. "We're not trying to determine what small businesses will charge for their merchandise."
Monday's announcement made no mention of a broader financial consumer code. Finance Canada has been holding consultations in that area and there has been speculation that further measures could be announced in the April 21 budget.
"I can't comment on what will be in the budget," he said when asked about the status of those talks. "I think I'd rather leave the whole subject for a little later."