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NRF: Swipe-fee cut will save merchants and consumers billions

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

WASHINGTON — Retailers and their customers will save billions of dollars when new Federal Reserve regulations cutting debit card swipe fees roughly in half take effect this weekend, the National Retail Federation said.

“Retailers across the nation are developing a wide range of innovative ways to pass these savings along to their customers with lower prices and better value,” NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “Change won’t come overnight, but consumers will definitely benefit. Reducing these fees will put billions of dollars back into the Main Street economy, helping American families stretch their paychecks and ultimately preserving and creating local jobs to keep America on the road to recovery.”

Under federal regulations made final this summer, the swipe fees, the nation’s largest banks charge merchants use to process debit card purchases, will be capped at no more than 21 cents per transaction – plus 0.05% of the purchase price and, in most cases, an additional 1 cent for fraud prevention – beginning on Saturday. That compares with 1% to 2% of the transaction – about 44 cents on the average retail purchase but several dollars on bigger-ticket items – under current fees. Debit card swipe fees currently total about $20 billion annually, and analysts have estimated the cap will save merchants and their customers about $7 billion. Small- and mid-size financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets are exempt.

While the cap will produce considerable savings for retailers and their customers on most purchases, some merchants are upset that fees could actually go up on small-ticket purchases. The cap amounts to 27 cents on a $100 transaction, or about one-sixth the $1.50 collected under the current fee schedule. But the cap comes to 22 cents on a $2 soda or cup of coffee, for example, that currently carries a fee of only 8 cents. The regulations would allow banks to charge less than the cap for small purchases, but recent news reports indicate that Visa and MasterCard banks plan to instead charge the maximum allowed.

“Even as these regulations are about to go into effect, banks are trying to turn what is supposed to be a ceiling on these fees into the floor for small transactions even though those fees were already grossly out of proportion to the amount of the purchase,” Duncan said. “Unfortunately, this is all too typical of what we’ve come to expect from the card companies and their banks.”

A number of banks also have threatened to raise other fees in retaliation for the swipe-fee cap, but Duncan criticized their behavior,

“Every time Congress takes a step to protect consumers, the banks use it as an excuse to raise fees,” Duncan said. “That doesn’t mean Congress shouldn’t pass consumer protection laws. It speaks more to the nature of the card industry than to whether swipe-fee reform should have been passed.”

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Leonard Green, CVC complete BJ’s acquisition

BY Allison Cerra

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — BJ’s Wholesale Club officially is owned by Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners, just a few weeks after the retailer’s stockholders approved the agreement.

BJ’s was required in an all-cash transaction valued at $51.25 per share, or $2.8 billion.

BJ’s common stock will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange prior to the opening of business on Monday, Oct. 3, the companies said.

The deal was announced in late June after months of speculation. BJ’s board of directors unanimously approved the agreement.

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CDC dispenses $25 million to battle childhood obesity

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday launched a new effort to address childhood obesity using successful elements of both primary care and public health. As much as $25 million in funding made available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will support a four-year Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project. The project will build on existing community efforts and will work to identify effective healthcare and community strategies to support children’s healthy eating and active living, and help combat childhood obesity.

“Over the last three decades, obesity rates among children and adolescents have nearly tripled,” stated CDC director Thomas Frieden. “Obese children are more likely to have asthma, depression, diabetes and other serious and costly health problems. This project will help figure out ways our children can grow up to lead long, healthy and productive lives.”

The project will target children between the ages of 2 years and 12 years covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a low-cost health insurance that covers more than 7 million children from working families. Rates of childhood obesity are high overall, but for minority and low-income communities in particular, they are even higher. Using innovative approaches to reach low-income and minority families to tackle childhood obesity prevents the onset of many diseases associated with childhood obesity, including Type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart disease.

These approaches include combining changes in preventive care at doctor visits with supportive changes in schools, child care centers and such community venues as retail food stores and parks. Community health workers will provide a bridge between families and resources in their communities in order to inform and educate hard-to-reach, limited English proficiency and minority communities about disease prevention, health insurance enrollment opportunities and disease management. Overall, the grantees’ work will focus on strategies that improve children’s health behaviors by involving the children themselves, their parents and other family members and the communities in which they live.

The project grantees include three research facilities, each of which will receive approximately $6.2 million over four years to identify effective childhood obesity prevention strategies. The evaluation center will receive about $4.2 million over four years and will determine successful strategies and share lessons and successes.


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