WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Task Force plans to hold a hearing on Thursday dealing the business practices of Visa and MasterCard, including their methods for setting the interchange rates that retailers pay on each credit and debit transaction. The Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., expects additional hearings on interchange rates this year in the Senate Banking Committee and a hearing and possibly legislation in the House Financial Services Committee. “We’re reaching critical mass on this issue,” said John Motley, FMI’s senior vice president of government and public affairs. “At some point a bill will emerge — this year, we hope, though it may not pass until next year.” He is hopeful that President Bush would sign a bill that has bipartisan backing. Interchange fees now average 2.16% of the transaction amount, more than retailer’s average profit margin of 1.46%, according to Motley. Credit and debit transactions now comprise slightly more than 60% of sales, he added.
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