Walmart could bring its own electronic payment system — Walmart Pay — to Canada next year, strengthening its position in a fight with Visa over credit card fees, the Globe and Mail is reporting.
Citing unnamed “sources,” the newspaper says Walmart’s own payment system could be in place in Canada as soon as 2017.
A shopper uses his smartphone to pay through Walmart Pay at a self-serve checkout counter, in a screencap of a demonstration video from Walmart.
Users can upload their payment information to a Walmart app, and pay by phone at store checkouts, with no need for any sort of payment card.
Walmart Canada announced last week it will stop accepting Visa credit cards at its locations in Canada this summer, beginning with three stores in Thunder Bay, Ont., where the cards will be refused as of July 18.
It’s part of a years-long struggle between the credit card issuer and the retailer over the fees Visa charges to stores, a struggle that has seen the two companies stare each other down in U.S. courts several times in recent years. Walmart has accused Visa of using its influence over the market to extract excessive fees for purchases.
“The main effect of high [credit card fees] is that they drive up the prices paid by consumers."
— Diane Brisebois, Retail Council of Canada
Canadian retailers are largely lining up behind Walmart in the dispute. Many are pushing for the passage of Bill C-236, a private member’s bill tabled by Liberal MP Linda Lapointe that would give the federal government the power to cap credit card fees.
“The main effect of high [credit card fees] is that they drive up the prices paid by consumers. This has been recognized worldwide and in studies by Canada’s Competition Bureau,” Retail Council of Canada President Diane Brisebois wrote in a column. “In total, they cost Canadian consumers over $5 billion annually.”
She notes credit card fees have been capped in many other countries, including the U.K., where fees amount to 0.3 per cent of the purchase price, compared to 1.5 per cent typically in Canada.
But many experts say the days of Visa and MasterCard dominating electronic payments are coming to an end anyway, thanks to the fintech revolution. Retailers, like Walmart, are setting up their own payment systems in order to save on fees and to keep consumer data to themselves.
“The fact that Walmart would be able to stop accepting Visa, historically one of the largest operators of credit cards, speaks mountains about the alleged market power of credit-card companies,” wrote Mathieu Bedard, an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute.
“It is simply not that big.”