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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Walmart Canada and Visa in a battle over fees; will drop card

   Canada column for Sunday, June 19/16

   By Jim Fox

   Walmart Canada has taken its battle with Visa over what it calls high credit card fees directly to its customers.
   The U.S.-based retail giant said that due to “unacceptably high fees” it will stop accepting Visa cards beginning July 18 in Thunder Bay, Ontario and expand the ban to its more than 400 Canadian stores.
   Walmart said it is trying to trim the more than $100 million in fees it pays annually for accepting credit cards.
   Visa stepped up the feud with newspaper ads accusing Walmart of using consumers as pawns.
   “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.
   Visa said it offered Walmart one of the lowest rates of any merchant in Canada but that hasn’t been enough.
   Fees charged to businesses – generally between 1.5 percent and 4 percent – have long been an issue and the Retail Council of Canada is calling on the federal government to legislate lower rates.
   Walmart has its own branded MasterCard but has not said whether this might be part of the issue.


   “Come on up and test drive Canada. Make it a long weekend and look around. Try your hand at the metric system,” Air Canada says of “Donald Trump concern” in the United States.
   Without mentioning the name of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the airline ads are having fun with the surge in American inquiries about moving to Canada.
   The situation has also led to numerous celebrities threatening that they’d move north, if necessary.
   The playful message includes an invitation to visit, noting that Air Canada operates 240 U.S. flights to Canada daily.


   News in brief:
   - A study says Canadian seniors are doing alright and automatically raising workplace pension contributions along with the cost of living is unnecessary. That’s because Canadian retirees increasingly cut back on spending once they become 70, said the report by the C.D. Howe Institute. Reduced company pension contributions would help young families more, it said.
   - Canada is seeking candidates for an out-of-this-world job as astronauts. Innovation and Science Minister Navdeep Bains said there are two spots to be filled. Canada’s participation in the international space station program has been extended until 2024 and the country has sent eight astronauts to space.
   - Bobby Curtola, a 1960’s Canadian rock-and-roll singer and teen idol, has died at age 73 in Edmonton. With a string of hits, he became internationally known for songs “Fortune Teller” and “Aladdin,” and played for five years in Las Vegas. He also wrote and performed “Things go better with Coca-Cola” for ads in 1964. His partner, Karyn Rochford, died in a car accident in Nova Scotia last December.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is lower at 77.63 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.288 in Canadian funds, before exchange fees.
   Canada’s inflation rate dipped to 1.5 percent in May from 1.7 percent due to lower food and gas prices.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Markets are lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 13,905 points and the TSX Venture index 713 points.
   The average national price for gas has dropped to $1.08 a liter or $4.10 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (June 15) 7, 16, 22, 27, 35 and 49; bonus 11. (June 11) 9, 28, 36, 37, 40 and 46; bonus 47. Lotto Max: (June 10) 5, 11, 15, 26, 27, 33 and 39; bonus 46.


   Regional briefs:
   - Nova Scotia has had a population boom largely the result of the arrival of Syrian refugees.
Statistics Canada said the Atlantic province’s population reached 947,284 on April 1, an increase of 4,918 from a year ago. It welcomed 1,849 immigrants from January through March.
   - British Columbia is receiving $460 million from the federal government for transit system upgrades as part of a national multibillion-dollar infrastructure program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this will help pay to modernize transit infrastructure with station renovations and new rapid-transit cars.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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