Visa Europe's CEO Peter Ayliffe says he expects to reach an agreement with the European Commission (EC) over interchange fees charged for cross-border card transactions by the end of the year.
Last March the EC launched a probe into whether the interchange fees charged by Visa Europe "forbid restrictive business practices such as price fixing".
The investigation's launch followed the expiry of a 2002 antitrust agreement between the card company and the EU's Competition Commission when Visa agreed to reduce levels of interchange fees for processing card transactions in return for immunity from legal action.
It also came on the heels of an EC ruling against Visa's rival MasterCard at the end of 2007 that concluded multilateral interchange fees charged for cross-border transactions "violate EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices".
In June 2008 MasterCard suspended its interchange fess to avoid daily penalty payments of 3.5% of its daily global turnover in the preceding business year. However, MasterCard is still appealing the decision to the European Court of First Instance.
Now, following months of discussions, Visa Europe chief Ayliffe has told Reuters reporters that dialogue with EC Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes has been "very constructive" and he expects a deal "as soon as possible" this year.
The confusion over interchange fees has also had wider consequences, hampering the implementation of the single euro payments area (Sepa).
In September the EC was forced to soften its stance on cross-border interchange fees in a bid to kick-start the Sepa direct debit payments system, highlighting serious concerns about the delayed initiative.
Visa Europe expects deal with EU on card fees soon - Reuters