The ECJ confirms that MasterCard’s payment card interchange fees are anti-competitive

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Ecommerce Europe welcomes the judgment of 11 September of the European Court of Justice, which confirmed that MasterCard broke the EU antitrust law by setting interchange fees (MIFs) for cross-border card payments. Yet, MasterCard will not be fined by the EU as a result of the ECJ ruling, because the company notified the Commission of its practices in 1992. In fact, under the old EU competition law, businesses notifying the Commission could not be fined for any trespass.

The ruling gives support to the proposals by the European Commission and the European Parliament on the Regulation of capping interchange fees. Ecommerce Europe supports these initiatives which improve transparency and innovation in the market by capping interchange fees on all debit- and credit card transactions, including commercial cards. Ecommerce Europe calls on the regulators to move swiftly to adopt the proposed EU Regulation in the coming months. A significant lowering of surcharges and interchange fees is essential to lower the cost of online shopping for both merchants and consumers.

The European Commission also applauded the ruling for its impact on competition in the EU card market and, in turn, on the European consumers. “This judgment is a big win for European consumers, who for too long have been paying unjustifiably high hidden fees,” declared Antoine Colombani, spokesman for the EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

The ECJ ruling will influence other national competition law proceedings across the European Union which were put on hold pending the judgment of the EU Court of Justice. As said, the ruling could also influence the ongoing legislative process to regulate multi-interchange fees at EU level. The Italian Presidency of the European Union, which came into force on 1 July 2014, has made the payments package (PSDII & MIFs) a priority, and it aims to have reached a general approach on MIFs during the ECOFIN Council meeting of 7 November 2014.

For further information on Ecommerce Europe’s position on e-payments in general and multilateral interchange fees more specifically, please have a look at our e-Payments Position Paper.

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