Canadian merchants to charge back credit card fees?

Canadian consumers may find themselves in the same position as their U.S. counterparts when it comes to credit card swipe fees. The Consumers’ Association of Canada issued a warning this week that depending on the outcome of a decision by the country’s competition tribunal, merchants may soon be permitted to tack additional fees on to credit card transactions to help cover their own costs.

“It’ll be like striking the marketplace with lighting. It’ll disrupt the whole way that we pay for our goods,” Consumers’ Association of Canada Vancouver president Bruce Cran was quoted as saying. “Nobody knows about it but you could wake up one morning — next week this thing might be out — and you could be paying, all of a sudden, a 10-per-cent surcharge on some things. So it’s going to be a big shock.”

Merchants pay at least $5 billion in fees to the major credit card companies annually. Critics say retailers are already passing those costs on to customers, even those who pay with debit card or cash, and allowing them to charge the additional fees would amount to a cash grab.

Others, however, say merchants are being hit hard by the fees and need to recoup their costs to stay profitable.