e'll say it up front: NPC is wrong,
and ASTA and ARTA are right. NPC, in case you haven't been reading
your alphabet soup, is National Processing Co., the operator of
ARC's settlement system and of an unrelated industry commission
payment service, NPC Commission Express.
NPC's product is a valuable one. It consolidates commission
payments from various participating suppliers and remits them to
agents in a single payment, with a reconciliation statement to
boot. It's free to agents, and thousands of retailers use it.
Some of those agents, however, prefer to get a check in the mail
with a paper report, rather than a direct deposit. Those agents
have until Sept. 7 to change their minds, or they will begin to see
a portion of their commissions drained off as processing fees, to
the tune of $2 per supplier for any payment more than $4.
ASTA and ARTA think this is on the high side, and we agree. ASTA
figures it could cost the average agency several hundred bucks a
year, and for what? For the privilege of receiving one's own
This episode is triggering a replay of the dispute over ARC's new
surcharges for agents who continue to report sales on paper. So we
will repeat ourselves:
A paperless system of electronic funds transfers and electronic
communication makes a lot of sense for NPC, as it does for ARC. It
may be better in every way than the system it replaces. But we have
the same objection to this move that we have to ARC's new fee
structure: It penalizes agents who aren't ready to jump when ARC
and NPC say "jump."
NPC claims it has been working on this for months. Rumors were
circulating a year ago, which NPC resolutely denied. Now it is
suddenly foisting these fees on the trade with little advance
notice to agents or their national trade groups.
This could have been done differently.