The Commission publishes an external study on the IFR

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The ongoing story of interchange fees in the EU opens a new chapter this year, with the expected publication of the European Commission’s implementation report, 5 years after the adoption of the Interchange Fee Regulation.

As part of the fact-finding exercise of the Commission, an independent contractor was commissioned to collect market information and data on all relevant aspects of the application of the Regulation.

The study, published by the Commission on 11 March, finds that the main objectives of the Regulation have been achieved, through the decrease of interchange fees for consumer cards which resulted in lower charges for retailers as well as benefits to consumers through lower retail prices between 2015 and 2017. It indeed concludes that merchants have saved costs from lower merchant service charges in the range of EUR 1,200 million per year, which would be eventually partly passed through to consumers.

The study does point out that scheme fees paid by acquirers to schemes for consumer card transactions have increased from 2015 to 2017 in a statistically significant manner.

While it stressed that there is no evidence of schemes substituting lower interchange fees paid for higher acquirer scheme fees, the study does mention that recent reports from merchants indicate that savings are being eroded by increases in other fees, for example scheme fees and interchange fees for commercial cards.

The report makes preliminary recommendations such as:

  • keeping interchange fee caps on consumer card transactions;
  • monitoring the level, structure and transparency of scheme fees;
  • strengthening the provision of transparent, simple, and unblended price information for merchants and investigating further the implied lack of competition;
  • Maintaining certain exemptions, such as the exemption on commercial cards.

Merchants have expressed their concern concerning the period of time covered in the report and subsequent development of unregulated fee after 2017.

The Commission will now continue its fact-finding exercise in the coming months in order to draft its implementation report – possibly accompanied by a proposal for amendments – by this summer.

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