UK payments regulator to probe card acquiring market

UK payments regulator to probe card acquiring market

The UK's Payments Systems Regulator is to conduct a market review into the card acquiring market in the wake of retail industry complaints about spiraling fees and ineffective competition.

In the UK in 2017, 13.2 billion payments were made by debit card and an additional 3.1 billion payments by credit card. In the same year, for the first time debit cards became the most frequently used payment method.

The PSR says the review will explore whether the supply of card-acquiring services is competitive and works in the interests of merchants, and ultimately consumers.

In particular, it will address concerns that acquirers are holding on to the savings they made from EU-imposed IFR interchange fee caps, which could indicate that some merchants - especially smaller merchants - are suffering "significant harm" because competition in the supply of card-acquiring services is not working well.

Hannah Nixon, managing director of the Payment Systems Regulator, says: “With more and more of us using our payment cards to make purchases, we want to make sure that retailers that accept card payments can access card-acquiring services that are competitive, offer value for money and are innovative - working in both their interests, and consumers’ interests too. We will look to make changes if we think improvements should be made.”

The draft terms of reference for the market review is open for consultation until 14 September 2018.

The news has been welcomed by retail industry bodies.

Andrew Cregan of the British Retail Consortium says: “ We’re continuing to make the case for measures to tackle the alarming increase in card fees and charges at a time when the retail industry is facing acute cost pressures elsewhere. Retailers spend £1.1bn on accepting payments of one kind or another every year - the vast majority of which goes to the card payments industry - and our research shows card scheme fees are spiralling, which inevitably pushes up costs for ordinary shoppers. We’ll be working in partnership with the PSR to ensure we’ve got a card market that supports the retail industry’s technologically-driven future.”

Comments: (7)

Richard Sanders
Richard Sanders - Hermosa Consulting - Southend on Sea 24 July, 2018, 11:545 likes 5 likes

Do the British Retail Consortium have a tracking mechanism so they can clarify how much of the interchange savings they have made from the caps has been passed back to consumers? I look forward to that information.

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson - Liberti Consulting - Northampton 14 August, 2018, 11:00Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Richard - What measure would you propose be used my merchants to demonstrate that the interchange savings have been passed back to consumers? Do you not think retail is competitive enough?

Richard Sanders
Richard Sanders - Hermosa Consulting - Southend on Sea 14 August, 2018, 14:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Peter. whether Retail is competitive or not is in my opinion not the issue here. The whole basis of the arguments to the Regulators by the BRC and other Retailer bodies in Europe was that interchange savings from the caps they persuaded the Regulators to implement woulod be passed back to the consumer, yet the Reagultors in their naivety did not ask for this to be tracked. The consumer is actually losing out as loyalty programmes are either scrapped or ,adjusted, by banks because of the revenue loss from interchange cuts. The Reagulator should have implemented a tracking mechanis as part of the interchange cap introduction. The big retailers have been shown to have had a benefit (see various articles by Payment Systems Europe) but have released no data on how much has been passed back to the consumer suggesting a tracking mechanism was never implemented

 

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 14 August, 2018, 18:38Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Retailers are greedy. They'll never pass on reductions to consumers. OTOH, when the no-surcharge rule was scrapped, some of them slapped as much as 7.5% surcharge even though they incurred card processing fees of <3%. "Retail is competitive" is a lame counter: Banking is even more competitive. I don't have the figures for UK / Europe but there are >6K banks in USA and not even 1/5th that number of retailers.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 15 August, 2018, 10:57Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Ketharaman - I've never read so much rubbish in my life. How can you possibly claim that banks are more competitive than retailers? ....and regarding your reference to greed, who makes excessive profits banks or merchants? Do you have any idea how much profit Visa made last year or how much they've increased their Card Schemes fee by? There is currently a view that card scheme fee increasaes have almost wiped out any savings made following the IFR - check it out!

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 15 August, 2018, 16:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@FinextraMember: I've given numbers in my previous comment to explain why I think banking is more competitive than retail. Profitability is driven by how well an industry is run. Retailers make measly profits probably because they're run poorly - I don't know. In any case, how much profit Visa made is absolutely irrelevant in a free market. On a side note, it's not just card fees. Retailers tend to swallow other external cost reductions as well. The Indian government has just instituted a probe against many QSR retailers for failing to pass on steep reduction in Goods & Services Tax from 18% to 5%. 

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson - Liberti Consulting - Northampton 22 August, 2018, 14:09Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Richard. Hi Richard. OK, putting the competitiveness of retailers to one side for now, I go back to my previous question of "What measure would you propose be used my merchants to demonstrate that the interchange savings have been passed back to consumers?"

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