Retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has slammed the Eftpos Payments Australia Limited (EPAL) for making changes to the new interchange fees.

The ARA said smaller retailers cannot afford the increased merchant rates and has called on the big banks to absorb costs.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said while retailers supported measures to increase competition between payment systems including VISA and MasterCard, this is not the time to be increasing business costs for small retailers.

“Retailers have been struggling with poor trade for over 18 months and now face more months of frugal consumers tightening their belts,” he said.

“Smaller retailers in particular should not be expected to cop increased interchange fees from banks that are posting giant profits, especially because they don’t hold the same bargaining power as larger retailers when negotiating with their banks nor do they have the time and resources to try.

According to Zimmerman, the new interchange fee structure paid the retailer 15 cents per ‘cash-out’ transaction but it would only benefit food and grocery type retailers, such as Coles and Woolworths that are members of EPAL board and took part in deciding the changes.

“Keeping competition healthy between debit payment systems is important but the ARA is calling on banks to give smaller retailers a much needed break and do the right thing in absorbing costs related to the new EFTPOS interchange model.”