Visa Delays Fee Changes, Might Also Give Gas Stations Relief

(Bloomberg) -- Visa Inc. is considering a reprieve for gas stations straining under an October deadline to upgrade their pumps, and, along with Mastercard Inc., delayed a set of fee changes that were to take effect next month.

The moves are aimed at sending relief to merchants struggling to remain afloat as the coronavirus puts a virtual halt to global travel and governments order businesses to shut.

“Now, more than ever, we’re putting all our power, capabilities, and technology to work to keep commerce flowing,” Seth Eisen, a spokesman for Mastercard, said in a statement. “To help our customers and partners manage through this unprecedented event, we are pausing updates to some systems while delivering the same level of security and service they receive every day.”

Visa and Mastercard will delay until July the planned changes to interchange fees, which are paid by retailers each time a consumer swipes their card at checkout.

“We are actively implementing and considering a number of ways we can proactively support our clients to ensure the stability, security, reliability and resiliency of the digital payments ecosystem,” said Will Stickney, a spokesman for Visa.

The change was welcome news for retailers. The Merchant Advisory Group said the move would “provide needed relief to some of the hardest-hit businesses while ensuring electronic-payment processing continues to work in the seamless fashion as they do today.”

Fuel Pumps

Visa might also postpone a deadline for gas-station operators to upgrade their fuel pumps to accept chip cards, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Fuel retailers currently have until Oct. 1 to upgrade their pumps. Those that don’t will have to start taking on responsibility for the costs related to fraud that happens at their facilities.

Merchants have complained that the new machines are costly, and say it’s hard to find workers to install the pumps as more businesses shut because of the virus.

“Nobody planned for the disruption of the pandemic delaying everything,” said Dan Rasmussen, a senior vice president at Hughes Network Systems, which helps retailers ready their systems to accept chip cards. Major oil companies including BP Plc, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. have been “applying quite a bit of pressure on the retailers to move and get the orders in and start progressing.”

The world’s largest payment networks have seen their stocks battered as the pandemic severely curtails spending on the firms’ networks, prompting Mastercard to abandon its full-year revenue guidance this week.

Visa Chief Executive Officer Al Kelly on Thursday pledged his company wouldn’t initiate any layoffs due to the global pandemic in 2020. The company has previously warned that the slowdown in cardholders’ overseas spending would likely crimp its outlook for revenue growth.

“There is enough sadness in the world and already too many families impacted by job losses,” Kelly said in a LinkedIn post. “I have no interest in contributing to that.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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