The annual NACS Day on the Hill, formerly known as the Government Relations Conference, was virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic; Capitol Hill isn’t open to visitors currently. However, lawmakers and their staff are still having virtual meetings with their constituents.
As a Virtual Day on the Hill attendee, MEMA was able to still learn about the pressing issues affecting the convenience store industry. Meetings were structured similarly to how they would be for an in-person Day on the Hill.
Issues that were discussed are as follows:
Credit Card Swipe Fees
The Issue: Credit card fees that retailers pay have been rising for quite some time. Visa and Mastercard set the swipe fee rates that the major banks charge retailers to accept credit cards. Those banks should be able to set their own prices instead of banks competing on the prices.
Retail Impact: For many convenience retailers, the swipe fees they pay exceed their pre-tac profits. And swipe fees, on average, are retailers’ second-highest operating cost-less than labor but more than rent and utilities.
The Ask Congress: To reform the swipe fee system and support legislation to help small businesses and bring competition to credit card swipe fees.
Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
The Issue: Congress is considering proposals to expand the electrification of the transportation sector, including increased incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) and the expansion of the EV charging infrastructure.
Retail Impact: The convenience and fuel retailing industry sell over 80% of the motor fuels in the United States at roughly 122,000 locations. Policies that impact transportation energy and, such as what and how to sell, store, label, dispense, price, and tax fuel, can have a dramatic impact on the industry. Not allowing the resale of electricity to charge EVs and permitting utilities to charge all of their customers to subsidize EV infrastructure and charging will stunt the private sector’s ability to invest in EV charging infrastructure and ultimately hinder the development of a charging marketplace.
The Ask Congress: To ensure that any EV charging policies promote a competitive market and remove hurdles to private sector investment.
Liability Protections for Essential Businesses
The Issue: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance designating certain businesses as critical infrastructure, including the convenience store industry and its supply chain. Despite their best efforts, these businesses could face the potential of civil lawsuits alleging that an individual may have contracted COVID-19 at one of their locations.
Retail Impact: Costly and harmful litigation would be crippling to these businesses that are trying to meet the needs of their communities while staying afloat during the economic disruption of COVID-19.
The Ask Congress: To support liability protections for essential businesses in future legislation.