Money transfer startup Atlantic Money has registered a complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority alleging anti-competitive practices by its larger competitor Wise after being de-listed from the incumbent's price comparison search engines.
Founded by two early employees of Robinhood, Atlantic Money moved out of stealth in March last year with a promise to take on the likes of Wise with a cheaper offering for larger value transactions.
Atlantic Money's pitch is that the fixed percentage rates charged by Wise penalise customers with progressive fees for costs that do not exist.
The company corrects the imbalance by offering the live mid-market currency rate and a flat fixed-fee of £3 for transfers up to £1 million.
Wise took the step to delist its cheaper competitor from its well-known price comparison tool on Friday. Wise has also declined to list Atlantic Money on the numerous external price comparison sites that they own, like Exiap, Geldtransfer and Currencyshop.
Wise has built its business and positive reputation among consumers by slamming banks for their lack of transparency and hidden transfer fees.
The firm's policy on comparing itself to competitors includes: “Sometimes, we won't be your cheapest option. Whenever possible, our price comparison tool will let you know that.”
In its complaint to the CMA, Atlantic Money states: "We understand that we are the first competitor to ever be removed from Wise’s own comparison tool. We believe this reflects well the gravity of how serious a threat Atlantic Money is perceived to be, and which has prompted Wise to compromise so greatly on values that were once strongly held."
The company is calling on the competition watchdog to review and/or investigate Wise's management of its money transfer comparison tools
"By implementing listing policies which result in it only comparing itself to competitors in a manner which benefits itself, Wise is effectively acting as gatekeeper to the market and creating a substantial barrier to entry for cheaper and more innovative providers to establish themselves. This conduct is harmful to competition across the UK and EU and, we would submit, ultimately results in higher fees for end consumers" the complaint continues. "Concerns around fair competition are compounded by the degree to which Wise’s actions contradict its carefully crafted public persona. Such conduct is, in our view, highly misleading towards its customers. These are customers who trust Wise to be honest because Wise has told them that it is honest, alongside claims that the traditional banks it seeks to disintermediate are not."
The firm is demanding that Wise implements a more rational eligibility criteria and communicates that to its customers.
"These actions would include having Atlantic Money listed and/or reinstated in cases where the eligibility criteria is met," states Atlantic Money.
In response, a Wise spokesperson says: “We’re really proud to have the comparison tool as part of our website, and we’re not afraid to list cheaper competitors. We’ve done that for years and still do. We decided to remove Atlantic Money for the time being for a number of operational reasons, including queries received from customers about their business. We take any complaints very seriously.”