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H.R. 5546 (110th): Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2008

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

10/3/2008--Reported to House amended. Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2008 - (Sec. 2) Sets forth a limited antitrust immunity to providers of covered electronic payment systems and merchants for negotiation of access rates and terms. Authorizes providers of a single covered electronic payment system (e.g. Visa or Mastercharge credit cards) and merchants to jointly negotiate and agree upon rates and terms for access to such system.

Authorizes such providers to jointly determine the proportionate division among themselves of paid access fees.

Denies such immunity during any period in which such a provider or merchant is engaged in any unlawful boycott.

Requires the rates and terms of a voluntarily negotiated access agreement to be the same for all merchants and participating providers, regardless of their respective category or volume of transactions.

Requires the negotiating parties to file with the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice a schedule for negotiations within one month following enactment of this Act. Directs the Antitrust Division to issue such a schedule, and inform the negotiating parties, if they fail to file a schedule before the deadline.

Requires issuers, acquirers, owners, and merchants to make specified disclosures regarding itemized costs and access agreements.

Requires a representative of the Antitrust Division to attend all negotiation sessions conducted under the authority of this Act.

Requires the negotiating parties to file jointly with the Antitrust Division any voluntarily negotiated access agreement that affects any market in the United States or elsewhere, including the various components of the interchange fee, and a description of how access fees that merchants pay are allocated among financial institutions and how they are spent.

Directs the Antitrust Division to report to certain congressional committees on: (1) the negotiations conducted under this Act during the first six months after its enactment; and (2) if a voluntarily negotiated agreement is reached, whether such access rates and terms will have an adverse effect on competition, and how such rates compare with access rates and terms in current use in other countries.

(Sec. 3) Declares that nothing in this Act shall limit the ability of acquirers or issuers that are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration or that, together with affiliates, have assets of less than $1 billion, to opt out of negotiations under this Act.

(Sec. 4) Requires agreements reached pursuant to the limited antitrust immunity under this Act to provide that: (1) when any fees that a merchant is charged for access to a covered electronic payment system are reduced, the merchant shall pass the benefits on to customers or employees; and (2) when any fees that a financial institution collects for access to a covered electronic payment system are increased, the institution shall pass those benefits on to its customers or employees.