Australia’s best bank critic, former Reserve Banker Peter Mair, has given ComBank CEO David Murray a blast for failing to comprehend the appalling consumer rip-off on credit cards he and the rest of the cartel have been enjoying for years.

The last, comparable, stinging attack was the episode where an angered Homer missed the brain department and smacked himself on the nose — exclaiming DOH! NO!

Perhaps young David is angered that this game is about up. Another possible explanation for such remarks is that they suggest David Murray, who has made more than $25 million as a bank CEO, has no misgivings about the conduct of credit card schemes by his and other banks over many years — schemes at long last clearly found to have been against the public interest.

Any ‘puzzles’ and ‘lack of clarity’ in the mind of Mr Murray could perhaps be explained to him by Visa executives who understand exactly what the RBA is on about and why — they have had a very good grasp of these issues for quite some years now. The only thing Visa may not understand is why it took so long to ring the changes on an arrangement so clearly against the public interest. Something the community may not understand is why such misbehaviour over so long a period took so long to be identified, and then does not attract exemplary penalties. Ideally, these and other things would be clarified — including for Mr Murray — in the course of a Royal Commission.

The Australian community has become used to Mr Murray not comprehending, in a timely manner, some quite important things about his business — not least his obligations in the ‘cash for comment’ matter and more recently an outburst on national TV, when he distanced the CBA from a collective undertaking given by the ABA banks (albeit, wrongly) to accept a social obligation to provide basic banking facilities ‘free of charge’. There is something about Mr Murray’s behaviour that many would feel is not totally consistent with his highly paid position at the head of the ‘people’s bank.’

Those that think the promised regulated reduction in total credit card interchange fees may be “up to $300 million” could be in for a surprise. On my reading of the proposals, the costs eligible for inclusion in calculating credit card scheme interchange fees will not amount to much at all. The reduction in bank credit card fee income could be much more substantial. More generally there will be flow on effects to related arrangements associated with the BPay scheme and the exchange of EFTPOS transactions.

I think most know who was ‘attacked’ and who is ‘stinging’. And I think most know it is well deserved.

Feedback to Peter Mair at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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