Italian Regulator Fines MasterCard for Unfair Interchange Fees

Nov. 18, 2010

Italy’s fair-competition watchdog, the Antitrust Authority, announced this week that an investigation initiated in July has found that MasterCard and several banks in the country colluded to keep interchange rates in the country artificially high. The regulator levied a total of more than €6 million ($8.4 million) in fines for allegedly using licensing agreements to keep interchange fees high in the country and passing those charges on to merchants. MasterCard received a €2.7 million ($3.7 million) fine. Fines for the banks ranged from €50,000 ($67,645) for Barclays to €910,000 ($1.2 million) for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, the Italian Antitrust Authority said Thursday. Other banks sanctioned by the regulator in the case include Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (€700,000 ($947,030)), ICBPI SpA (€490,000 ($662,900)), Unicredit SpA (€380,000 ($514,100)), Banca Sella Holding SpA (€360,000 ($487,000)), Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA (€240,000 ($324,700)) and Deutsche Bank (€200,000 ($270,600)). In addition to the licensing agreements, the authority found that the banks entered into agreements designed to prevent stores from comparing MasterCard’s fees with the charges for other credit cards or payment method. The order gives MasterCard and the banks 90 days to show they’ve stopped the allegedly anti-competitive activities.