EU antitrust regulator accuses MasterCard of excessive fees

Thu Jul 9, 2015 1:25pm EDT
 
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By Foo Yun Chee and Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators accused MasterCard Inc on Thursday of levying excessive fees when cards issued outside the European Union are used within the bloc, saying they raise the price of goods and services for all.

The European Commission antitrust watchdog launched the new case after a two year investigation into the world's No. 2 card and debit card issuer and is part of efforts to trim such fees and boost cross-border trade.

The EU antitrust regulator said on Thursday that the high level of interchange fees charged on cards issued outside the EU - the fees store owners pay banks to process credit card payments - were "unjustified".

When a Spanish credit card is used in a Brussels store, for example, the bank used by the Belgian shop owner has to pay the bank in Spain a percentage of the transaction.

The EU watchdog says that in the case of a Chinese card being used in a Brussels store, the bank used by the shop owner could have to pay fees up to five times higher.

"As these inter-regional fees represent hundreds of millions of euros each year, the Commission is concerned that these high inter-regional fees increase prices for retailers and may in turn lead to higher prices for products and services for all consumers, and not only those using cards issued outside the EU or paying with cards," it said.

The Commission said on Thursday that it had sent a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to the company.

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An employee stands behind a MasterCard logo during the launch of the international credit card issuer's first ATM transaction in Myanmar, in Yangon November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun