Belgian banks reverse decision on Maestro switch

Belgian banks reverse decision on Maestro switch

The Belgian banking community has reversed a decision to switch its domestic debit card system to the MasterCard payments platform at the end of the year.

The switch to Maestro from the national Bancontact/Mr Cash system was announced by the payments body Banksys in May last year. Scheduled for January 2008, the move was intended to coincide with the introduction of the Single Euro payments Area (Sepa).

The national press in Belgium says the suspension of the project followed protests from retailers concerned about interchange fee levels. A lack of clarity in the legislative arena for payments processing was also cited as a consideration.

The decision to delay the switchover to Maestro was made by the Belgian banking
federation, Febelfin.

Mastercard has responded to the setback by re-affirming its intention to introduce Maestro as a local debit scheme at the beginning of 2008, in direct competition with the Bancontact system.

Today, over 95% of Belgian debit cards already have Maestro operability for international transactions. MasterCard says the introduction of the Maestro system at the national level will open the market to new acquirer entrants, leading to competitive offers on all major retailer cost items, such as merchant service charges, terminals and telecommunications.

Carlos Rodriguez, general manager of the BeNeLux region at MasterCard Europe, says the company is continuing to work closely in partnership with the Belgian banks on their migration plans.

"This new timetable will give us the opportunity to demonstrate to the Belgian banks the superiority of the Maestro proposition to that of the existing national scheme, and to competitor schemes."

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