A majority of Canadians have sided with Walmart Canada in its dispute with credit card company Visa, but having the public’s sympathy may not rescue the retailer from a hit to its earnings.
That’s according to polling from Angus Reid, which found that 59 per cent of Canadians back Walmart in the dispute, while 41 per cent back Visa.
But the poll also found that nearly half of respondents (46 per cent) who used a Visa card at a Walmart in the past year said they would be less likely to shop there if the retailer follows through on its intention to stop accepting Visa cards in Canada, starting this month.
(Chart: Angus Reid)
“While the retailer may be winning the public opinion ballot question over the credit provider, it may create a gaping self-inflicted wound if it follows through with its plan,” the Angus Reid Institute said in a statement.
In short, if this were an election campaign, Walmart would be winning the political air war but not getting the votes out on the ground at the ballot box. In fact, if push came to shove, a good chunk of Walmart’s supporters would simply vote with their feet and go elsewhere.
Walmart announced last month that it would stop accepting Visa cards in Canada, beginning with three locations in Thunder Bay, Ont., on July 18.
“After Thunder Bay, it’ll be a phased approach across the country. It’s limited to Canada,” a Walmart spokeswoman said.
The retailer argues that the fees Visa charges to retailers are “unacceptably high.” It has faced off with Visa in U.S. courts on a number of occasions in recent years, arguing the credit card issuer exercises “monopoly” powers over credit card fees.
A Walmart supercentre in Kingston, Ont., on Monday Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Lars Hagberg)
Visa Canada responded by saying it charges Walmart some of the lowest fees of any retailer in Canada.
"Walmart is unfairly dragging millions of Canadian consumers into the middle of a business disagreement that can and should be resolved between our companies," it said in a published statement.
The Retail Council of Canada, which represents retailers including Walmart, has called on the federal government to lower credit card fees for all retailers, the CBC reports.
It argues Canadian fees are five times higher than those paid by retailers in Europe, and three times higher than fees in Australia. Reducing them could save as much as $400 million a year, the council says.
But Canadians largely don’t believe those savings would mean lower bills at the checkout line. The Angus Reid poll found nearly two-thirds of respondents believe Walmart would pocket the difference if Visa lowered its fees.
(Chart: Angus Reid)
The Angus Reid survey polled 1,527 Canadians between July 4 and July 6, 2016, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.