By Maria Aspan
(Reuters) - Some U.S. lawmakers are close to trying to delay a law slashing debit card processing fees, Visa Inc General Counsel Joshua Floum told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
"We are optimistic that something will come soon given our discussions with various members" of Congress, Floum said, adding that Visa has "reason to believe that there is a lot of sentiment to suspend and study" the law.
He would not be more specific about when Visa hopes for Congress to introduce a bill delaying the debit fee caps, which are scheduled to go into effect in July. Floum spoke to Reuters a day before he is scheduled to testify before a House of Representatives panel on the hotly-contested caps, which were required by the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Banks and card network companies such as Visa and MasterCard Inc have been pleading with Congress and the Federal Reserve to ease up on a December proposal that would cut debit processing fee revenue by about 75 percent. The depth of the Fed's cuts took the industry by surprise, sinking Visa and MasterCard shares by more than 10 percent in one day in December.
Despite the scheduled hearing on Thursday, analysts and industry sources are skeptical about the debit card companies' odds for success in Washington.
Merchants pay banks and networks every time a customer buys something with a debit card. The proposed caps would shave some $13 billion off the industry's annual $23 billion in debit card processing revenue, according to CardHub.com, and could also terminate some of Visa and MasterCard's exclusive processing deals with banks.
Visa has not yet told investors how much revenue it expects to lose from the debit card processing fees. Floum reiterated on Wednesday that, until the law is fully implemented, "it's difficult to know the exact impact."
The company's shares were up 0.5 percent at $76 in late morning trade on Wednesday.