Don’t Change My Interchange: capitalism dressed as consumer action

You might be seeing ads at the moment for something called Don’t Change My Interchange. The idea is to increase awareness that the Reserve Bank of Australia is calling for stricter regulations on bank interchange fees – that is, the fees that banks charge each other to transfer your money.

Don’t sign their petition.

The campaign is being run by right-wing think tanks who oppose regulation of the financial sector. In particular, they are fighting to shore up public support for bank interchange fees and to negate the RBA’s recent claim that bank interchange fees are too high and too inconsistent. According to the campaign video, interchange fees are necessary to maintain an affordable service. This is a bit rich, considering how easily the banks make money (and literally at that).

The group organising this campaign refers to itself as the International Alliance for Electronic Payments, or IAEP. A quick Googling reveals a wary article about the IAEP from Choice magazine; this shows up in the search results before the IAEP’s own web site. Choice had many concerns about who the IAEP actually are and who is supporting their current drive. Here’s a taste.

The first partner listed on the IAEP web site (the Competitive Enterprise Institute) currently carries an article harshly criticising the recent papal Encyclical as being anti-growth and as such anti-capitalist.

The second partner (the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance) is running a campaign of its own in support of disgraced climate skeptic Bjørn Lomborg, regarding the University of Western Australia’s broken partnership with Lomborg “academic censorship”.

The third in the list is American Commitment, who spend a lot of their time railing against environmental regulation and universal health care.

Get the picture yet? To be honest, even in surprised that I read as far as I did.

By no stretch of the imagination is this being run for the benefit of consumers. Behind the gloss is an argument that higher charges for banking make banking more affordable. Does that make sense to you?

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