NEW YORK €" Visa Europe Ltd. and MasterCard Inc. are under scrutiny from the European Union€™s top antitrust regulator over fees paid by retailers that he described as "too high," writes Bloomberg.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said during a conference in Brussels on Friday that there is no indication that card-transaction costs for retailers have decreased since 2006.
"The fees are still too high and too unequal," across Europe, Almunia said. "We are now conducting a study which will give us a better picture of the merchants€™ actual costs and benefits of accepting cards as compared to other means of payment."
Regulators are already investigating Visa Europe for the fees it charges for cross-border credit-card and deferred-debit transactions after retailers said the fees were unfair, notes the news source, adding that Visa Europe reduced similar fees for debit cards last year to settle a 2009 EU complaint. MasterCard settled a similar case by the commission in 2009, agreeing to reduce its credit card interchange fees to 0.3% and 0.2% for debit cards.
Visa Europe, meanwhile, commissioned a survey that showed cash payments are "more expensive at the average Visa card transaction value and that Visa Europe€™s interchange fees are set at an entirely reasonable level," according to an e-mail from Visa spokesperson Amanda Kamin.
Almunia told reporters that EU regulators are willing to "reconsider" the agreements that capped Visa Europe and MasterCard€™s interchange fees, if the EU study could show why card fees for cross-border payments didn€™t decline.
Almunia also commented that retailers view card fees "as an excessive tax imposed by banks, since the payment service fee rate can be as high as 2% of the transaction value."