Visa and Mastercard tackled over fee hikes

The UK’s Payment Systems Regulator will focus a pair of market reviews on the rising card fees charged by Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc.

The regulator will examine whether higher charges levied on merchants are an indication of market failure, according to a statement Tuesday.

One review will look at scheme and processing fees on the networks while another will examine cross-border interchange charges — the tolls charged on some overseas transactions.

The reviews will “inform any decisions on the steps we might need to take to promote effective competition or to address any harm,” Natalie Timan, head of strategy at the PSR, said in the statement.

In 2021, there were 21 billion UK issued debit card payments totaling £702 billion ($861 billion) and 3.5 billion credit card payments amounting to £182 billion, according to lobby group UK Finance.

Visa and Mastercard accounted for around 99% of all UK debit and credit card payments in 2021, by both volume and value.

The issue of card fees is an increasingly sensitive one in the UK after Brexit.

Britain’s departure from the EU removed caps on transactions between the UK and the European Economic Area allowing card firms to increase cross-border payment charges.

Since the UK left the European Union, Visa and Mastercard have increased the interchange fees five-fold, the PSR said.

Last year, Inc. threatened to stop accepting purchases made with Visa credit cards issued in the UK, part of the online retailer’s push back against transaction tariffs charged by payment networks.

The draft terms of reference for the market reviews are open for consultation until August 2.

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Visa and Mastercard tackled over fee hikes