Walmart, Visa Resume Lobbying Battle Over Credit-Card Standards

Lobbyists for Walmart Inc. and other retailers are joining forces with companies that process payments in the latest battle over the $90 billion that U.S. merchants pay banks annually to process credit and debit-card charges.

Trade groups including the National Retail Federation plan to announce this week that they’ve joined with Washington advocates for companies such as First Data Corp. They want regulators and lawmakers to give more companies a say in setting standards for card security and new payment technologies.

“We want a seat at the table,” said Doug Kantor, a lobbyist at Steptoe & Johnson who is leading the new group, called Secure Payments Partnership. “We are not looking to start another fight but if that’s what happens, then that’s what happens.”

Retailers say networks like Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. make decisions such as which industry is on the hook when cards are stolen. Financial firms counter that retailers and tech companies do have representatives who weigh in on rules for credit cards. They say retailers are just trying to pay less in swipe fees.

Providing Feedback

“All players in the payments ecosystem -- including retailers -- have the opportunity to provide feedback and participate in the process,” said Jeff Tassey, chairman of Electronic Payments Coalition, whose members include networks like Visa and banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“While some industries lobbying Washington for further regulation seem to be more interested in cutting their own costs than protecting their customers from fraud, the payments industry is fully committed to providing security and innovation for all participants,” Tassey said.

The group’s launch marks the latest flash point in a drawn-out Washington clash over swipe fees, which banks collect from retailers every time consumers use their credit cards. As more consumers shop online and via mobile phones, retailers and financial firms have battled over who should be in control of new technologies and systems to thwart fraud.

With each new system -- whether it’s an online checkout button, chip cards or Apple Pay -- every company from the retailers that accept cards to the banks that extend credit must adopt new systems and standards. Currently, several councils run by the card networks make those decisions.