EC Claims Visa Europe Interchange Fees Violate Antitrust Rules 

Aug. 2, 2012

On Tuesday, the European Commission (EC) revealed it has informed Visa Europe the association could be in violation of EU antitrust rules over the fees it charges for cross-border interchange. The EC has produced a preliminary finding that Visa Europe’s multilateral interchange fees “restrict competition between banks and infringe EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.” Also the Commission “doubts” that the fees, at their current level, create efficiencies for the benefit of merchants and consumers, which would qualify Visa for an exemption from the rules.

The EC says its preliminary finding applies to fees for cross-border transactions throughout Europe, and in-country fees in Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Sweden. Last month, an EU court upheld an EU decision to put restrictions on MasterCard cross-border transaction fees, which MasterCard said it would appeal.

The Commission noted that Visa payment cards account for 41 percent of all cards issued in the European Economic Area. More than 5 million merchants in the Europe accept Visa credit and debit cards and the EC said that in 2010 more than 35 billion payments were made with Visa cards with a total value of €1.8 trillion ($2.2 trillion).