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UK payments watchdog proposes cap on interchange fees

UK payments watchdog proposes cap on interchange fees

The Payment Systems Regulator is propsing to cap cross-border interchange fees on credit and debit cards to protect UK businesses from rising costs.

The regulator is proposing a two-stage process to protect UK businesses from overpaying on interchange fees. This includes:

  • An initial time-limited cap of 0.2% for UK-European Economic Area (EEA) consumer debit transactions and 0.3% for consumer credit transactions (where the transactions are made online[1] at UK businesses)
  • A lasting cap on these interchange fees in the future, once further analysis has been carried out to establish an appropriate level.
The PSR's proposal comes after Mastercard and Visa raised fees for EEA card transactions accepted by UK businesses in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The watchdog believes that the card schemes have "likely raised these fees to an unduly high level", at the expense of UK businesses. Last year alone, the PSR estimates that UK businesses paid an extra £150-200 million due to the fee increases.

The PSR’s current view is these UK businesses have little choice but to pay the increased costs as Mastercard and Visa cards account for 9 out of 10 online transactions at UK businesses using EEA-issued cards.

Chris Hemsley, managing director at the PSR, says: “In this market review we have provisionally found that the fees charged by Mastercard and Visa to UK businesses which accept payments from within the EEA are likely too high. In short, at this stage, we do not think this market is working well.

“Should we ultimately conclude this is the case, our interim report sets out a range of potential solutions which could be implemented. We are also considering the longer-term outcomes so we can determine how we may need to adapt these fees in future.”

The window for giving feedback is open until 31 January 2024, with a final report coming in Q1 2024.

Visa has come out fighting against the charges: “We strongly dispute the findings of the PSR’s interim report and believe that the proposed remedies are not justified. Accepting reliable, secure, and innovative digital payments represents enormous value to UK businesses, especially when selling overseas," says the card scheme in a statement to Finextra. “These interchange rates apply to less than 2% of UK card payments - European (EEA) cardholders buying online from a UK seller - and reflect the fact that these transactions are more complex and carry far greater risk of fraud.”

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 13 December, 2023, 19:241 like 1 like

It would be good if Visa and Mastercard could justify the charges as the actual costs (without a profit element) of providing the service. The capital costs of the network are likely to have been met many times over from interchange charges already.

It is great to hear from Finextra that Visa themselves are against the charges. The sentence "Visa has come out fighting against the charges:" seems to indicate that Visa recognises that their interchange fees are excessive and unjustified! What a turn up for the books!


We should also remember that the EU have already taken a stand on interchange fees so the UK regulator seems late to the party.

Steve Haley
Steve Haley - Mojaloop Foundation - Wakefield 14 December, 2023, 04:30Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

"increase in 150-200m GBP" - yes clamp down on fees but also invest half that much in public utilities that give small businesses an alternatives - including cross border merchant payments.  (and acknowledge that acquiring banks prefer profit sharing with card schemes over public utilities...)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 14 December, 2023, 10:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Down with Regulatory Overreach!

This is Exhibit A that Brexit can take UK out of EU but it can't take EU out of UK.