Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning to all of our witnesses.
Last Tuesday, at a joint meeting, the Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology heard from witnesses who represent an array of retailers and merchants' associations from across Canada and Quebec, including the Retail Council of Canada, and several coalitions of merchants and various groups.
These groups made presentations to the committee. They also made three recommendations, one of which was the importance of legislating in the credit card industry; it is important for the government to start regulating the credit card system. A second recommendation dealt with regulating for greater transparency among the various stakeholders that make up the credit card system.
I asked these associations and coalitions if they themselves had approached banks, Visa, MasterCard, issuers, and others concerned, directly to call for greater transparency. They replied that, indeed, requests had been made. Yet, when we asked them what you replied to them, they told us that you had not. In fact, the representative from the Retail Council of Canada told us that they were quite taken aback. Each year, the Retail Council of Canada holds three meetings, to which you are invited. When the last meeting occurred in September, MasterCard decided not to attend. This is what the representative told us.
Apparently, you had told them that there were problems with software that prevented you from answering their questions. Yet, in a letter sent to the chair of this committee, you claim that you are willing to discuss issues of common interest at least once a year. Since there currently are issues of common interest, why did you not attend the meeting?
On the one hand, there are associations that represent some 250,000 merchants; on the other hand, there is you. Who should we believe? You and your document, or the people who speak on behalf of 250,000 merchants and even more employees?
What degree of transparency are you willing to demonstrate, when merchants are claiming that they are totally unaware of why they are paying higher interchange fees and other fees they are forced to assume?