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Buried By Letters, Fed Needs More Time on Debit Fees

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Federal regulators say there’s no way they’ll be able to sift through the avalanche of letters they’ve received in time to implement new rules that could change how millions of Americans use their debit cards.

The Federal Reserve was supposed to implement new rules regarding debit card fees starting April 21. But in a letter to Rep. Spencer Bachus (R – Ala), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said his agency needs more time to read more than 11,000 letters it’s received about the proposal.

[Related: Interchange Fees: The Billion-Dollar Fight For Control of Your Wallet]

“Because of the volume of comments and the complexity of the issues raised in those comments, however, we have concluded that we will be unable to meet the [Dodd-Frank Act’s] directive that the Board issue final interchange fee standards by April 21,” Bernanke wrote in the letter, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The Fed’s proposal would limit some debit card fees from their current average of 44 cents per transaction to 12 cents. Banks and credit unions have waged an all-out lobbying war against the proposal, saying it would deprive them of billions of dollars a year in revenue.

[Related: Strange Bedfellows in Debit Interchange Fee Fight]

The delay is obviously good news for banks. But the National Retail Federation, which has pushed hard for the change, said it welcomed the Fed’s decision to postpone because it means the rules could still take effect by summer.

“Retailers want to begin passing on swipe fee savings to their customers as soon as possible, and today’s announcement means those plans will be able to move forward as planned despite the anti-consumer efforts of some in Congress,” Mallory Duncan, the federation’s lawyer, said in a press release.

Image: The Consumerist, via Flickr

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