European Commission Launches Further Inter-Bank Fees Probe into MasterCard

The European Commission said that it is opening formal proceedings to investigate further aspects of MasterCard’s inter-bank fee system.

The Commission banned MasterCard from levying cross-border inter-bank fees within the European Economic Area (EEA) – the region that comprises the EU’s 27 member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland – in 2007 and is conducting a similar investigation into Visa.

It said it had concerns that some of MasterCard’s “inter-bank fees and related practices may be anti-competitive,” and there was a need to ensure a level playing field in a huge and growing market. The latest

investigation will focus on payments made by those from outside the EEA, such as US tourists, who use their credit cards when visiting the EEA.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Commission said: “These fees and practices may restrict competition. The inter-bank fees are generally passed on to the merchants, leading to higher overall fees for them. Ultimately, such behaviour is liable to slow down cross-border business and harm EU consumers.”

The Commission plans to propose a regulation on inter-bank fees for card payments before the summer. The spokesperson said that this would “ensure legal certainty and a durable level playing field across the EU for all providers”.

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