Fabian Demicoli

Visa concessions on card fees: a step in the right direction

The commerce sector welcomes the
commitments offered by Visa Europe on its interchange fees and associated
rules. The card scheme has offered to cut its interchange fees on credit cards
to 0.3%. It will also remove restrictions on cross-border acquiring.

"We welcome this news as
a further step in the right direction: it shows that the wind is finally
changing on interchange fees. But, we need even stronger measures in the
upcoming regulation," said Christian Verschueren, Director-General of
EuroCommerce. "More remains to be done: we need the Commission to go further
and to tackle all excessive fees on national payment card transactions."

If these commitments are
accepted, both Visa and MasterCard's cross-border interchange fees will stand
at 0.2% for debit and 0.3% for credit. The Visa commitments would also apply to
domestic fees in 10 Member States. This is an improvement, but it is only a
start. Interchange fee rates, in general, remain disproportionately high in
many Member States and this is where the real economic damage is being done. A
similar case is on-going in France with preliminary commitments from both Visa
and MasterCard to reduce their fees. However, these proposals do not go far
enough. The commerce sector looks to the Commission's forthcoming regulation on
interchange fees to take an even stronger line to fully resolve the issues at
domestic level in all Member States.

On cross-border
acquiring, Mr Verschueren commented, "We very much welcome this long-awaited
reform. We have long argued that the card schemes' rules on cross-border
acquiring were wholly contrary to single market principles. Merchants should be
able to fully benefit from centralising their acquiring in one place, which
will bring economies of scale to the European economy as a whole. We look
forward to similar rule changes from MasterCard."

The commerce sector calls
on the Commission to come up with even more robust rules in the payments
legislation expected before the summer. EuroCommerce will continue to campaign
for a regulation which removes excessive interchange fees, not only
cross-border but also on all domestic markets. It is also crucial that the
revision of the Payment Service Directive is robust in allowing new payment
providers and innovative business models to enter the market.

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