Op-Ed: Nichols Calls for Repeal of ‘Archaic’ Durbin Amendment

In an op-ed in The Hill today, ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin Amendment, which he said has negatively affected banks’ ability to serve their customers and failed to deliver its promise of lower prices for consumers. The amendment created a government-imposed cap on debit interchange fees charged by banks with $10 billion or more in assets, though Nichols noted that smaller institutions have also suffered Durbin’s unintended consequences.

Prior to the Durbin amendment, pricing on debit card interchange was tied to the market, which allowed banks to support consumer benefits such as low-cost checking accounts and debit rewards programs. Once Durbin’s one-size-fits-all rate cap was instituted, however, Nichols said that unintended consequences came in the form of less flexibility for small businesses and higher compliance costs for banks — with consumers faring poorly.

“Once the interchange funding… was diverted to retailers, consumers noticed new minimum balance requirements, higher fees and fewer rewards programs,” Nichols wrote. “The Durbin Amendment has made it harder to obtain low-cost mainstream banking services, especially the protections of a debit card-linked checking account. Retailers had promised to offset these consequences by passing their savings onto consumers through lower prices—which has not happened.”

Echoing a letter from the state bankers associations last week, Nichols called on Congress to support H.R. 5465, a bill recently introduced by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) that would repeal the amendment.