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Collecting Debit and Credit Card Payments: Know Your Rights as a Merchant

Do you process debit or credit cards to collect payments from your customers? If so, you have rights as a merchant.

In August 2010, all payment card networks, including American Express Canada, Discover, THE EXCHANGE, Interac, MasterCard Canada and VISA Canada adopted The Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in Canada. Further changes came into effect in November 2013 requiring more transparency when merchants enter into package-style agreements that include more than one party on the payment service provider’s end.

The goals of this code are to ensure that you, as the merchant, understand the costs associated with accepting credit and debit card payments in your business, to provide you with increased pricing flexibility so that your customers can choose the lowest-cost payment option, and to allow you to choose freely which payment options you will accept.

Your Basic Rights as a Merchant

When you enter into an agreement with a payment service provider, your basic rights boil down to understanding what kind of contract you’re entering into, and having the flexibility to end your contract well in advance of any unexpected fee increases.

Here is a brief overview of your rights as a merchant:

Transparency in Agreements and Statements

When a payment service provider offers you a package that includes contracts with more than one party, you must be given a consolidated summary of key information about each contract before you sign an agreement with the provider.

Further, when you receive a statement from a payment service provider after you have entered into an agreement with them, that statement must present information about your account in a clear and simple manner. 

For example, the statement should include information about the number and volume of transactions for each type of payment transaction, the total amount of fees applicable to each rate and details of each fee to which card payment network they relate.

Adequate Notice of Fee Increases

As a merchant, your provider must send you at least 90 days' notice of any new fees or fee increases related to your agreement, and they must supply you with adequate information to properly understand the financial implications of the fee increases.

You are also allowed to cancel you contract within 90 days of receiving that notice without any penalty should you prefer to shop around for a new agreement with a  different payment service provider.

Freedom to Opt-in to Products and Services

Your payment service provider cannot insist that you accept a certain form of payment in order to accept another. For example, merchants who accept credit card payments from a payment network are not required to accept debit card payments from the same network, and vice versa.

Additionally, if your payment card networks introduce new products or services, you are not required to accept those new products or services. 

You must explicitly consent to accept new products or services, and your payment service provider cannot automatically opt you into those new products and services, and subsequently require that you take the initiative to opt-out if you do not wish to use them.

Your Responsibility as a Merchant

Ultimately, while this code of conduct exists for your protection, it is your responsibility as the merchant to know what your rights are, to explore your options and to thoroughly examine any agreement offered to you before you sign it.

For more information on The Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in Canada, please visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website.