The EU’s antitrust chief Neelie Kroes warned banks on Monday that a new payment system should not be allowed to cut down choice or increase costs for customers.
Kroes suggested that national card payment schemes should be encouraged to join the SEPA scheme because that would introduce and increase competition to the benefit of merchants and customers.
The EU competition commissioner said she was working hard to wrap up an ongoing antitrust case against MasterCard Inc. The European Commission last year charged the credit card provider with illegal price fixing for setting the fees retailers must pay for accepting MasterCard and Maestro branded cards, saying this limits competition between banks who use the xservice.
“We want this decision to provide the industry with a solid competition analysis of the MIF as applied by MasterCard,” she said.
Kroes earlier signaled that Visa may also face further trouble ahead. In 2002 it won a temporary exemption from EU antitrust rules that allowed it to strike deals on interchange fees with banks that it might usually compete with.
This exemption expires at the end of the year and Kroes said in October that she was unlikely to simply extend it, warning that she had “the feeling that something should be done.”
Regulators have criticized the high level of these fees, saying card networks like Visa, MasterCard and American Express have failed to explain why they need to charge so much for handling payments.
This could mean that national systems could get another chance. Good!