By Aimee Chanthadavong

The Australian Newsagents' Federation (ANF) is urging the federal government and banks to reconsider the new eftpos fees system that was introduced by Eftpos Payments Australia (EPAL) in early March.

The multi-lateral fee model is intended to replace the previous system of bilateral interchange fee arrangements struck between different participants in the eftpos payment network.

When RetailBiz spoke to EPAL managing director Bruce Mansfield, he said it is as fair as the system can be.

However, ANF national policy manager Ben Kearney strongly disagrees saying ANF and many small retailers are finding it difficulty to grasp the fairness of the new system.

“I’ve spoken to Bruce several times and we’ve shared dialogue but we’d just like more justification for why these changes are necessary. Its been implied that this system will improve the eftpos network but we’re not sure how a bulk of the merchants operating these terminals will be better off,” he said.

“Our aim of the campaign is to encourage the banks, who are obviously the cause because they’re members of EPAL, to reconsider at this point in time what they’re proposing. In this current economic climate for retailers it’s particularly poor timing to suggest this increase as it’s nearly a 40 per cent increase and we’d really like them to reassess the model and we’re encouraging the government to also look at that.”

According to the ANF, EPAL’s shareholders are made up of the major banks and large retailers, including Coles and Woolworths who manage their own terminals. Through a transitional arrangement, Coles and Woolworths can opt out of the new charges while the banks will receive an increase in income from eftpos fees.

Consequently, the ANF said the fees are a new eftpos tax on consumers and small retailers, which is expected to cost more than $150 million annually.

“The core is the inequity between the positions of the major retailers will be at in comparison to the small businesses,” Kearney said.

Kearney also said that there is no current solution for how smaller retailers can deal with the changes.

“The difficulty is smaller retailers fee can pass the cost onto consumers but then you get this situation that customers will become fairly attuned and will add a cost of the product of a small business in comparison to Coles and Woolworth and this gives them a leg up.”