Antitrust: Commission publishes study on the application of Interchange Fees Regulation

_EURO

(Mauro Sbicego, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission has published a study on the application of the Interchange Fees Regulation (“IFR”) for card-based payment transactions. The study, which was commissioned by the Commission to an external contractor, finds that the main objectives of the Regulation have been achieved, as the interchange fees for consumer cards have decreased by 35% (around EUR 2,6 bio. per year) between 2015 and 2017. This decrease has resulted in lower charges for retailers as well as benefits to consumers through lower retail prices. Furthermore, increased cross-border acquiring services and card transactions have led to a higher degree of market integration.

The main objectives of the Regulation, which entered into force in 2015, were to address the collectively agreed interchange fees for cards and card-based payment transactions, which were highly diversified, elevated and non-transparent. These fees represented an obstacle to Single Market integration and created distortions of competition, including higher costs for retailers and consumers.

As envisaged by the IFR, later this year the Commission will submit a report on the application of the Regulation itself to the European Parliament and to the Council. The study will be one of the sources of information for the report, together with stakeholders’ feedback and evaluations from competent national enforcement authorities.

 

Background

In April 2015, the European Parliament and Council adopted Regulation 2015/751 on interchange fees for card-based transactions. Its provisions became applicable between 2015 and 2016. In particular, the IFR caps interchange fees, introduces business rules and prohibits practices that create barriers such as territorial restrictions or the prevention of choice of payment brand or payment application. This Regulation aims at promoting offline, online and mobile card payments, in line with the principle of technological neutrality.

Article 17 of the IFR requires the Commission to submit to the European Parliament and to the Council a report on its application. This report can include a legislative proposal suggesting amendments to the IFR, if appropriate.

For this reason, in September 2018 DG COMP contracted a study to collect market information and data on all relevant aspects of the application of the Regulation. This study carried out extensive fact-finding and analysis, involving all relevant stakeholder groups from all Member States. More than 5000 market participants were invited to contribute with their views. The contractor finalized the study in December 2019.

The Final Report of the Study on the application of Interchange Fees Regulation is available here.

Reports prepared by outside parties represent the authors’ views on the subject matter. These views have not been adopted or in any way approved by the Commission and should not be relied upon as a statement of either the Commission’s or DG Competition’s views.

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