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Choice questions ‘shadowy’ new banking ad campaign ‘Don’t Change My Interchange’

Consumer rights body Choice is questioning who is behind a new ad campaign, opposing proposed Reserve Bank of Australia’s plans to remove the EFTPOS interchange fees, labelling the campaign as “shadowy” and warning that the campaign, which appears to be bank industry funded, may oversimplify the issue.

The ‘Don’t Change My Interchange’ campaign, which is “supported” by an organisation called the International Alliance for Electronic Payments, is fighting against the RBA’s plans to remove the EFTPOS interchange fee, which is a fee a business pays a bank so it can accept a credit card and debit payments, arguing the removal of it will hurt consumers.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Choice campaigns manager Erin Turner said: “What I find very interesting about the ‘Don’t Change the Interchange’ campaign is I can’t even tell who’s behind it

“There’s a risk this will come as disingenuous. Interchange is a complex issue, we’re talking about Reserve Bank regulation on card payments. They’re taking an issue that frankly comes down to the profit of banks and profit of card providers and trying to claim it affects consumers.

The campaign website is registered to FTI Consulting.

“There’s a real risk that consumers and organisations that represent consumers, like Choice, will come out and say not good enough. This is a glossy veneer. It’s really cheeky.”

The campaign asserts consumers could lose a number of benefits if the interchange fee is removed, including ability to use cards online and in stores; fraud protection and security; money is restored in full, if it’s stolen; access to credit and interest free credit for up to 55 days.

Turner said the problem with the campaign is it is confusing as to who is involved.

“It’s a shadowy, really confusing organisation making some big claims about how regulation will affect businesses and consumers and that lowering costs in a complex system would somehow be unfair to everyone.. That’s in no where being fair to a complex debate.”

A search for the International Alliance for Electronic Payments online finds no contact details or address. The ‘Don’t Change My Interchange’ also does not include any contact details.

In comparison, a campaign from the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), which is the industry body for Australia’s mutual banks, credit unions and building societies, has honesty and fact on its side, Turner said.

“What COBA has is facts and honesty on its side,” she said. “COBA has their name on it. They’ve been talking about this for a long time, they’re willing to be upfront with the facts and actually be frank who’s behind it.

“If an organisation can’t tell you who they are and why they’re pushing something that should raise all sorts of red flags,” Turner added.

The COBA campaign is fighting against the Federal Government’s tax on bank deposits which could raise $500m a year in tax revenue.

The campaign argues the tax is “anti-saver” and will hit smaller banking institutions harder than the “big four” banks.

According to a media release it is running nationally across TV and radio.

Miranda Ward

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