Local Debit Card Processor Disputes Extra Fee Is a Surcharge

BRYAN - The Texas Department of Banking continues to investigate complaints against some local businesses charging an extra fee for debit card users to offset costs.

A new law was supposed to make it illegal last September.

News 3 spoke with a local credit card processing company which believes these restaurants are not breaking the law.

There's still some confusion over a 49 cent debit card fee some local businesses are charging.

Charlie Benbow is the owner of Brazos Valley Merchant Services, which processes debit and credit card transactions. He believes the fee shouldn't be seen as a surcharge but as an incentive to pay with cash or credit.

"A lot of our merchants as we implemented the program were considering going up on their prices most of them have not a few have... As a consumer I would rather have more options than just have an automatically higher prices," said Benbow.

Last month we told you about Bryan Resident Randall Walton who filed complaints against Shipley Donuts on Briarcrest Drive, Cici's Pizza on Texas Avenue, Jesse's Taqueria on 29th Street and La Bodega for charging a debit card surcharge of 49 cents.

"They have a good old saying if you have to justify something it's probably wrong," said Walton during a March 19th interview.

Bob Bacon is the Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Department of Banking which is continuing to investigate. They sent letters to the businesses telling them to stop charging the fee.

"We're visiting with some of the merchants and processors and doing our research and once we get this information together we will sit down at that point and visit with the Attorney General's Office about the applicability to the current law and what can be done," Bacon said.

"It's our viewpoint that this has been legal and compliant since day one in the matter that we've done it according with the the attorney general's office. And if there's something that comes along we'll certainly look at it you know to change things," said Charlie Benbow.

If the state determines the restaurants should stop the new law has nothing in place regarding who should enforce violations.

Charlie Benbow says the president of Debit Technology Incorporated, a company he works with has been to Austin to better explain their case and right now it's business as usual.

The Department of Banking says their investigation may take a few more weeks.

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