EUROPE. Europe’s retailers – with the Travel Retail Fair Payment Alliance representing industry interests – are increasing the pressure on credit card companies to reduce their cross-border transaction fees. EuroCommerce, the European-wide retail organisation, has lodged a formal complaint against Visa with the EU Commission, which is set to investigate the company under EU anti-trust rules.
The news comes just days before the 1 July introduction of new, lower MasterCard fees, which were agreed following a separate investigation by the Commission.
The Travel Retail Fair Payment Alliance, led by Kappé International Owner Jacques Parson, stated: “Back in 2002, when the Travel Retail FPA was formed, Visa narrowly escaped full anti-trust proceedings after it revised its cross-border fee structure called the Multilateral Interchange Fee (MIF).
“Since then the Fair Payment Alliance has continually argued that decision was a missed opportunity because the structure still allowed for the banks to force opaque and un-negotiable fees on retailers. A hardening of the Commission’s attitude since its investigation into MasterCard’s cross-border fees, however, led Neelie Kroes, the European Competition Commissioner, to conclude Visa’s cross-border fees should be tested again.
“Even recent announcements by Visa to reduce their default cross-border credit card transaction fee to 0.50% and 15 euro cents for cross-border debit card transactions, did little to sway the Commission’s hard line that [Visa’s] cross-border fee structure appears un-competitive.”
An investigation opens the way for potentially more competitive rates and more transparency on Visa card charges.
MasterCard’s settlement of its investigation by the European Commission will see the card company’s cross-border rates forced down to a maximum 0.30% for consumer credit cards and 0.20% for debit cards.
The Fair Payment Alliance said: “This settlement is not just a welcome reduction in fees. Overall transparency will be improved because costs will be unbundled on invoices, making it clearer for retailers to see the real costs of accepting these cards. Importantly, MasterCard’s despised scheme fees will be withdrawn from then as well.”
Jacques Parson said: “We are at a key moment with our credit card activity. We have a much stronger position with MasterCard and EuroCommerce’s Visa complaint, which we discussed last week at our coordinating meeting in Brussels, is a strong submission on the unfair problems retailers face accepting cross-border credit cards.
“While we wait to see how this complaint and investigation develops, I take this opportunity to urge all travel retailers to examine their contracts with their banks and to ensure they and their customers benefit from the Commission’s settlement with MasterCard from 1 July. This will be worth very much to retailers in these turbulent economic times.
“But we must be proactive as I suspect the banks and MasterCard will not take the initiative. I invite the business to contact me for more information on how to approach their banks or to let me know if banks are not aware of this settlement when approached or if they automatically quote 0.30% as an agreed rate, rather than a maximum level.”
MORE STORIES ON THE TRAVEL RETAIL FAIR PAYMENT ALLIANCE
Boost for travel retailers as EU Commission prepares to probe Visa over credit card fees – 09/04/09
European travel retailers should renegotiate their terms with MasterCard says The Fair Payment Alliance – 23/06/08