MasterCard faces EU fine over anti-trust breach

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MasterCard has received a formal complaint from the European Union after it was discovered that the card processing firm has been imposing ‘‘artificially high’’ transaction fees.

On 9th July, MasterCard received a Statement of Objections document from the European Commission.

The anti-trust regulator claims that MasterCard has been preventing international banks from offering lower interchange fees to merchants and retailers in European countries.

‘‘As a result, retailers cannot benefit from lower fees elsewhere and competition between banks cross-border may be restricted, in breach of European antitrust rules,’’ stated the European Commission.

MasterCard has also been accused of setting ‘‘artificially high’’ transaction fees for its international customers who are making transactions within Europe.

‘‘Many consumers use payment cards every day, when they shop for food, clothes or purchase anything online. We currently suspect MasterCard is artificially raising the costs of card payments, which would harm consumers and retailers in the EU,’’ commented Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for competition.

If the allegations against MasterCard are found to be true, then the Single Market could be facing a time of uncertainty. According to the Commission, card payments play a key role in the European market, with customers and merchants using payment cards for over 40 per cent of their purchases.

MasterCard would also have to pay a large fine if the Commissions preliminary views are correct.

This is not the first time that MasterCard has been fined for imposing high interchange fees. In 2007, MasterCard were found to have been restricting competition between banks based in France and Belgium. The card processors were also found to be raising interchange fees in 2009 and 2010.

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