(Adds reaction from Visa Europe, EuroCommerce, BEUC)
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS May 14 Visa Europe, the European
licensee of Visa Inc., has offered to cap its inter-bank
credit card fees at the same level as rival MasterCard to
end a European Union antitrust investigation and stave off a
Visa Europe, owned and operated by more than 3,700 European
member banks, came under fire last year when the European
Commission said its fees harmed competition between banks and
led to higher consumer prices.
Its credit and debit cards account for about 41 percent of
all payment cards issued in Europe, making it the largest card
network in the European Union.
The Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that the
proposed cut meant Visa Europe would charge 0.3 percent of the
value of each transaction - about 40-60 percent lower than at
The offer, which would be valid for four years, is for
cross-border and domestic fees.
But retail lobby EuroCommerce called for the Commission as
the EU's competition regulator across the 27-nation bloc, to
take bolder action on card charges, especially in local markets.
In addition to cutting its fees, Visa Europe also offered to
reform its rules to make it easier for businesses to seek better
cross-border deals from competing banks.
Visa Europe's chief executive, Peter Ayliffe, called for a
level playing field for old and new competitors.
EuroCommerce, whose 1997 complaint triggered an antitrust
investigation into MasterCard which subsequently capped its fees
in 2009, said more should be done, especially in local markets
where it said fees remain disproportionately high in several
"What we really need now is to see a regulation from the
Commission which goes further and which tackles interchange fees
at national level. Only then will merchants and consumers see
the benefits of lower costs," EuroCommerce adviser Ruth Milligan
EuroCommerce members include French supermarkets chain
Carrefour, Swedish furniture group IKEA, British
supermarkets group Tesco and Spanish clothing retailer
Consumer group BEUC called on EU regulators not to be
distracted by Visa Europe's offer but to continue efforts to
regulate inter-bank card fees.
"Any reduction of MIFs (multilateral interchange fees) is a
welcome step but it should not be used as a smokescreen to avoid
legislative action by the European Commission to finally
regulate these fees," said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.
Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier is due to
present legislation regulating card fees in the second quarter
of the year.
The EU antitrust authority said those interested in the
matter will be able to comment soon on Visa Europe's proposal
before it decides whether to accept the offer.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)