The date was February 11th, MAG was having the opening session of the Mid-Year Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, with hundreds of payment professionals gathered to network and learn about payment services, trends and initiatives that impact merchants’ customers and bottom line. MAG’s leadership and staff had planned 2020 to be an incredible year with the first MAG international payments conference along with all the other initiatives: webinars, best practice guides, in-person advocacy meetings and another record-breaking annual conference. March arrived and so did the virus COVID-19, bringing stay at home orders and closures of businesses. Overnight our personal and business worlds changed, in some cases forever. What didn’t change was the need for customers to be able to make payments. As payments professionals, our jobs became elevated even more so to support our dramatically changing business environments. More than ever we needed MAG to help navigate this new world and be the voice of the merchant.
MAG’s staff pivoted and made the necessary changes to address the most pressing issues. One of the first actions was to engage with the card brands on the previously announced interchange rate increases that were to be effective in April. With MAG’s voice of 167 members engaging with the card brands, merchants got a reprieve of all scheduled price increases until April 2021. Another collaboration led by MAG was delaying the liability shift for EMV at the fuel dispensers. While these two were the pressing issues facing merchants, MAG continued the conversations with the card brands on cross channel rules, chargebacks, third-party gift card liability, debit routing and Secure Remote Commerce - bringing into focus how the new business environment was impacting merchants. Online shopping and delivery, or BOPIS, had taken off like a rocket and these other issues were having a direct impact on merchants’ customers and businesses.
Even COVID could not stop MAG from meeting with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve to discuss the significant increases in Card Not Present debit transactions, costs and very limited routing options that conflicted with the Durbin Amendment (Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection law). In addition, MAG talked with Fed officials regarding their ability to adjust limits on regulated debit transactions showing them in a paper how the current pricing as measured against the bank surveys were not reasonable and proportional as set out by the law.
Providing payments education to the members has always been important for MAG. This year was no different, and, in fact, even more important than before. MAG released three best practice guides, two merchant readiness publications, and hosted 19 webinars on current topics and issues. Developing and launching an online learning management system has been a project of the MAG staff for some time. This past fall, the MAG Learning Center (MLC) launched, creating a repository of articles, webinars, publications and other materials to educate merchants about payments.
One of the events the membership looks forward to every year is the in-person annual conference that brings experienced colleagues and new payments professionals just beginning their payment careers together. Like many other activities, the Annual Conference and the new MAG Tech Forum had to go virtual but, but the virtual events didn’t stop MAG from creating interactive, dynamic conferences.
For all of us there are some aspects, either personal or professional, of 2020 that have left a deep impact on us. And, while we don’t know how long this new environment will exist or the lasting customer payments behaviors, we do know that the MAG is ready and able to support the membership through unprecedented events.
Here is to a hope of meeting in-person in 2021. On behalf of the MAG board, we wish you each a healthy and happy holiday and new year.