PSR sets out interchange fee rules

Source: Payment Systems Regulator

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the new economic regulator for the £75 trillion UK payment systems industry, has published draft guidance setting out how it plans to regulate new European legislation covering payment cards.

The Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) takes effect from 9 December 2015 and will bring major changes to the way UK card payment systems operate, most notably by introducing a cap on interchange fees.

Interchange fees are paid between the bank of a merchant (such as a supermarket) and the bank of a card user (such as somebody doing a weekly shop) when a card payment is made. The European Commission’s intention with the cap is to redistribute the revenue from card issuing banks to merchants and on to consumers.

HM Treasury confirmed the PSR as lead UK regulator for the IFR on 17 November 2015. Our draft guidance consultation includes:
• to whom the IFR applies
• interchange fee caps and how we will consider who may be exempt
• our approach to monitoring compliance with the IFR
• our powers and procedures under the IFR
• penalties under the IFR

The draft guidance is relevant to payment card schemes and their participants (operators, payment service providers and infrastructure providers) as well as those who use these services. It has been informed by a Call for Input that we published in June 2015 to gather views.

Hannah Nixon, Managing Director of the PSR, said:
“It’s the interchange fee caps that have captured the public’s attention, but the IFR is more than that. The intention of the IFR, as well as providing savings to consumers by reducing fees, is to boost transparency and remove barriers so others can enter the market and compete. These are goals that tally closely with those of the PSR and our wider agenda for UK payment systems.

“The PSR is amongst the first regulators in the EU to have been appointed as a competent authority, and we are the first to have publicly set out how we will oversee the new requirements. This is uncharted territory for any regulator, so I’m proud that we are leading the way and helping clarify how this significant piece of legislation works.”

To ensure the cards industry is clear on what it has to do now, our guidance only covers the parts of the IFR which take effect from 9 December 2015: specifically the cap on interchange fees and other business rules.

Further provisions come into force in the summer of 2016 and we will consult on our approach to those next year.
Interchange fee caps
Fee caps for the UK have been set by HM Treasury for credit and debit card transactions. In the UK there will be a cap of 0.3% for credit card transactions. For UK debit card transactions HM Treasury has chosen a weighted average of 0.2%, meaning the cap will be 0.2% of the average value of all UK debit card transactions from the previous year.

The level of the caps will be kept under review by HM Treasury, with support from the PSR and the other relevant UK regulators as required.
Who is captured by the cap?

Some schemes may not be caught by the interchange fee cap at this stage. The IFR allows some local discretion and the UK Government has decided to grant a temporary exemption from domestic interchange fee caps to certain three party schemes that work with licensees.

To qualify for the exemption the value of a scheme’s annual domestic (issuer, acquirer and merchant are all in the UK) card-based transactions must be less than 3% of all domestic transactions.

HM Treasury has asked us to calculate the market share of those schemes that might benefit from an exemption. We have begun this process already.

What happens now?

Our guidance consultation closes on Friday 29 January 2016 and we want to hear as many views as possible on our draft guidance.

We also need to finalise our work on which schemes are eligible for a temporary exemption from the IFR. We are aiming to publish our provisional findings before the caps take effect on 9 December.

Finally, as noted above, next year we will issue a separate consultation focused on the parts of the IFR that not captured by today’s publication.

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