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Retailers Ask Supreme Court to Hear Swipe Fee Case

Retailers are asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the Federal Reserve rules concerning debit card interchange fees, also referred to as swipe fees.

"Given how extensive these fees are and how they affect virtually every transaction that takes place in the United States ... it's a serious case that the Supreme Court ought to hear," Doug Kantor, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C., who represents the retailers, told Reuters.

This legal battle over swipe fees has gone several rounds up to this point, with the retailers winning some and the Fed winning others. The case dates back to 2011 when the Fed limited swipe fees to 21 cents per transaction, but retailers said the Dodd-Frank law intended the cap to be even lower.

NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing; the National Retail Federation; National Restaurant Association and other groups, sued the Fed in 2011. A U.S. district court in July 2013 sided with the retailers and ordered the Fed to retool the fees.

But then, the Fed appealed and a three-judge appeals panel in March reversed the lower court's decision and upheld the Fed's rules. The retailers had the option of appealing to the full appellate court or directly to the Supreme Court, according to Reuters.

The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case.

Retailers and other businesses pay interchange fees to banks when customers use debit cards to purchase goods or services. The fees, set by Visa and MasterCard, are meant to reimburse banks for the costs involved in providing the debit cards, according to the news outlet. 

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