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EU launches investigation into MasterCard inter-bank fees

The European Antitrust Commission has initiated a new antitrust investigation to check whether inter-bank fees charged by MasterCard may be thwarting competition in European Economic Area (EEA) and violating its antitrust regulations.

The Commission said that it has concerns that some of MasterCard’s inter-bank fees and related practices may be anti-competitive.

Providing a solid ground to launch a probe, the commission said in a statement that European consumers and businesses execute over 40% of their non-cash payments per year through card.

"It is therefore a priority for the European Commission to prevent competition distortions in inter-bank arrangements on fees and other conditions," the statement added.

In 2007, the commission already prohibited some of MasterCard’s inter-bank fees claiming that multilateral interchange fees charged for cross-border transactions made with MasterCard cards within the European Economic Area (EEA) breached competition rules.

The agency is also probing similar charges against Visa.

The probe will also cover all rules on ‘cross-border acquiring’ in the MasterCard system that limit the possibility for a merchant to benefit from better conditions offered by banks established elsewhere.

The commission is also planning to introduce a regulation on inter-bank fees for card payments that will ensure legal certainty and a durable level playing field across the EU for all providers.