How does payments policy fit into the 2021 agenda?

How does payments policy fit into the 2021 agenda?
Beth Provenzano VP, Public Affairs Merchant Advisory Group
Apr 23, 2021

A look back

As crazy as this sounds, I remember the first Congressional meeting I attended to discuss the enactment of the Durbin Amendment like it was yesterday; and while the hundreds of meetings on a variety of payments topics that followed over the years may not have stuck in my memory with the same level of specificity, I do know merchants have worked tirelessly to share their perspective in each and every meeting with elected officials, hill staff, regulatory bodies, payments industry stakeholders, consumer groups, the press and others. This diligence has led to increased awareness and understanding of the merchants’ role in payments acceptance and how transactions work at a fundamental level.

As with everything in life, there is change when it comes to advocacy though. We have a new Congress every two years and presidential elections every four years. These cycles lend themselves to the continual education merchants share with policymakers, the press, and fellow stakeholders. It is one of the reasons MAG launched several years ago. The site is designed to provide educational resources about payments to an audience that may need a foundational background on how payments works and what commonly used terms mean in order to better affect change. Over the years it has evolved to include more detailed infographics which try to make the dense information more easily digestible for those not in the payments industry. KYP, as we refer to it at MAG, will get a refresh this year. Payments is ever evolving, and our goal is to enhance this educational tool to better inform the site’s audience.

The year ahead

As the new Congress and Administration get underway it will be interesting to keep an eye on how key committees and agencies explore the payments landscape. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the Department of Justice is investigating Visa’s practices in regard to debit transactions. Senator Durbin is the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is also interested in card networks’ practices. The Federal Reserve plans to release a report on covered issuer costs for debit transactions under the Durbin Amendment this spring, which was delayed last fall due to COVID. All parties are carefully watching the economy’s possible recovery following the pandemic and attentive to learning how commerce has transitioned during this unique and challenging time. 

Retailers have a good story to tell regarding their innovative solutions in accommodating payments acceptance given the rapid shift to more touchless transactions, increase in debit volume and opportunities for real-time payments. 

Now is the time for retailers to be engaged and share how they see the payments industry shaping up in the future. There’s no time like the present – so why not make 2021 the year for payments policy to be on the agenda? The progress may seem slow, but as we have seen with governmental actions in recent years, the effort to drive positive change and foster competition and transparency in the payments system is well worth it. 

The Merchant Advisory Group

Driving positive change and innovation in the payments industry that serves the merchants interest through collaboration, education, and advocacy.