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Cards

The European Commission fines card scheme Mastercard EUR 570 mln

Wednesday 23 January 2019 | 01:58 PM CET

The European Commission has fined the card scheme Mastercard EUR 570 million for obstructing merchants’ access to cross-border card payment services.

The card scheme received the financial penalty for limiting the possibility for merchants to benefit from better conditions offered by banks established elsewhere in the Single Market, in breach of EU antitrust rules.

Card payments play a key role in the Single Market, both for domestic transactions and for payments across borders or over the internet. European consumers and businesses make more than half of their non-cash payments through cards. When a consumer uses a debit or credit card in a shop or online, the bank of the retailer (the acquiring bank) pays a fee called an interchange fee to the cardholder’s bank (the issuing bank). The acquiring bank passes this fee on to the retailer who includes it, like any other cost, in the final prices for all consumers, even those who do not use cards.

The Commission investigation found that because of Mastercard’s cross-border acquiring rules retailers paid more in bank services to receive card payments than if they had been free to shop around for lower-priced services. This led to higher prices for retailers and consumers, to limited cross-border competition and to an artificial segmentation of the Single Market.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that Mastercard’s rules prevented retailers from benefitting from lower fees and restricted competition between banks cross border, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The infringement ended when Mastercard amended its rules in view of the entry into force of the Interchange Fee Regulation.

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