EC fines Mastercard €570m for anti-competitive antics
According to the EC, the firm limited the possibility for merchants to benefit from better conditions offered by banks established elsewhere in the Single Market.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, says: “European consumers use payment cards every day, when they buy food or clothes or make purchases online. By preventing merchants from shopping around for better conditions offered by banks in other Member States, Mastercard’s rules artificially raised the costs of card payments, harming consumers and retailers in the EU.”
Mastercard is the second largest card scheme in the European Economic Area (EEA) in terms of consumer card issuing and value of transactions.
The EC says the company’s rules obliged acquiring banks to apply the interchange fees of the country where the retailer was located.
Prior to 9 December 2015, when the Interchange Fee Regulation introduced caps, interchange fees “varied considerably” from one country to another in the EEA.
As a result, the EC says retailers in high-interchange fee countries could not benefit from lower interchange fees offered by an acquiring bank located in another Member State.
In April 2013, the Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation against Mastercard to assess whether these rules on “cross-border acquiring” were in breach of EU antitrust rules.
In July 2015, the Commission issued a Statement of Objections – i.e. it said Mastercard’s actions led to higher prices for retailers and consumers, etc.
And as a result, the Commission decided to impose the rather large fine on Mastercard.
Mastercard cooperated with the Commission by acknowledging the facts and the infringements of EU competition rules – and got a 10% fine reduction in return for this.
There’s no official word yet from Mastercard on its website.