* Card scheme's inter-bank fees to be capped at 0.3 percent
* Deal ends EU antitrust probe
* EU's Almunia hails victory for consumers
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Feb 26 Credit-card provider Visa
Europe will cap the transaction fees it charges, the European
Commission said on Wednesday, curbing an important money earner
for banks behind the payment scheme.
The move ends one in a series of long-running antitrust
probes by the European Commission that was triggered by
retailers' gripes about the world's biggest card payments
company by the volume of transactions.
It represents a victory for those retailers and the
Commission, which had pushed for reduced fees on credit and
debit cards, saying the annual cost to businesses across Europe
was 10 billion euros ($13.7 billion).
The settlement to end the dispute means Visa Europe's
inter-bank credit card fees, a cost which consumer groups say
ultimately falls on the card user, will be capped at 0.3 percent
- the same level as rival MasterCard.
It is a setback for Visa Europe, the European licensee of
Visa Inc, owned and operated by more than 3,000 European
financial institutions. It had offered to take this step last
year after the EU competition authority began its investigation.
"The cap on inter-bank fees for Visa Europe's credit cards
and the commitments ensuring cross-border competition are
excellent news for European consumers, since the fees paid by
retailers end up on their bills," said EU Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
Inter-bank fees are collected and kept by banks processing
payments using cards. While the card payment companies do not
benefit directly from the charge, they fear a crackdown will
discourage lenders from issuing their cards.
MasterCard has said the value of cross-border card
transactions is less than 5 percent of all purchases made by
The announcement confirms Reuters' report on Feb. 14 that
the European Commission would accept this concession from Visa
Europe to end its probe.
The company said it would now be able to put the issue
"Visa Europe will continue to focus on developing and
providing payment solutions for the benefit of consumers, rather
than pursuing lengthy legal cases," Visa Europe CEO Nicolas Huss