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UK retailers attack Visa and Mastercard over card fees

UK retailers attack Visa and Mastercard over card fees

Retailer lobby group are calling on the UK Government to crack down on the fees charged by Visa and Mastercard as more consumers switch from cash to cards.

The latest payments survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) shows card use continuing to rise steadily from 54% of transactions in 2016 to 61% in 2019.

At the same time, the cost to retailers of accepting payments reached £1.1 billion in 2019, of which £950m was from card payments.

While card payments account for four in every five pounds spent in retail, they also incur the largest charges with shops charged an average of 18.4p per credit card transaction (up 15% from 2016), and 5.9p for every debit card transaction (up 6% from 2016). Furthermore, businesses have received notices in the past year of new fees that will now be charged to accept payments online.

The BRC says the overall increases in scheme fees - 39% in 2017 and 56% in 2018, measured as a percentage of turnover - were "clear demonstrations of an abuse of market dominance".

The BRC, together with the British Independent Retailers Association, Association of Convenience Stores, Federation of Small Business and UKHospitality have come together to call for decisive action from the Competition and Markets Authority to tackle increasing scheme fees.

The calls come amidst a series of reviews underway by government and the UK’s Payment System Regulator, with a Treasury consultation on the payments landscape closing today.

Andrew Cregan, head of finance policy, British Retail Consortium says: “With card payments accounting for almost 80% of retail sales, it is vital that the Government takes action to tackle excessive card costs. Without action we will see businesses put under further pressure and it will be consumers who are forced to pay the price.”

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Comments: (4)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 October, 2020, 14:021 like 1 like

This is a significant and growing problem for retailers, not just in the UK but also the EU and USA. Card scheme fees which were left unregulated by the interchange fee regulation that came into force in 2015 have more than doubled in the last two years and are now costing merchants in Europe an extra Billion euro's a year. The signs are that they'll rise further with another massive hike in fees due to take place in January. All this at a time when retailers are struggling to survive. COVID has accelerated card use significantly and made merchants even more dependent on them. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, these are currently NUST HAVE cards for merchants who simply can't not accept them. The major US card schemes (Visa, Mastercard) have 80% gross/40% net profit while retailers have just 1-3% net. It's the consumer who ultimately ends up footing the bill, even those paying by cash, but they're largely unaware of these costs as retailers try to absorb as much of them as they can. Regulation is required urgently to address the unfair and anti-competitive practices of these huge duopolies.

Chris Vincent
Chris Vincent - Exela Technologies - Leicestershire 20 October, 2020, 14:501 like 1 like

Innovation will play its part here. Open banking and Pay.UK compliant 'open standard' overlays such as Request to Pay can/will/should deliver ubiquitous real time digital payments, safely, securely and most importantly at low cost. Retailers, banks and billers need to come together to drive adoption.


Nick Collin
Nick Collin - Collin Consulting Ltd - London 21 October, 2020, 12:071 like 1 like

This misinformed discussion has been rumbling on for decades.  Just to be absolutely clear, Visa and MasterCard do not charge retailers fees!

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 21 October, 2020, 12:381 like 1 like

@Nick Collin - You're quite right. But it's a pedantic point. The fees are levied by Visa & Mastercard to the merchants card acquirer - who passes them on directly to the merchants. I'm not aware of a single acquirer that's not passing these fees on. Please tell me if I'm wrong!