EU Competition Commission Announces Visa Interchange Fees Investigation in 2008

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced that her staff would take a close look at some of Visa’s business practices next year, when Visa’s antitrust exemption expires. The European Commission investigated Visa regarding interchange fees (paid by merchant banks to card-issuing banks for over-the-counter payments) and came to an agreement in 2002. The agreement, which has since given Visa an exemption from EU antitrust action, runs out in December. Kroes remarked, “I will say that when our exemption decision on Visa expires at the end of this year, we will look again at the effect of their interchange fees on competition”. Others in the Commission have made clear its intent to scrutinise Visa, and Kroes’ remarks underscore that she backs a new investigation. Kroes has conducted an across-the-board review of the financial industry, focusing on payment cards. The Commission is already looking into MasterCard’s setting of interchange fees, which it said may break competition law, conducting a closed hearing last year.


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