Thomson Reuters; April 9, 2013
BRUSSELS, (Reuters) - EU regulators are investigating whether MasterCard's card fees for non-European cardholders and business practices locking in merchants to its cards violate EU antitrust rules, as they stepped up their fight against barriers to cross-border trade.
The fresh investigation by the European Commission came six years after it banned the world's second-largest credit and debit card network from charging cross-border card fees in Europe.
"The inter-bank fees are generally passed on to the merchants, leading to higher overall fees for them. Ultimately, such behaviour is liable to slow down cross-border business and harm EU consumers," the Commission said in a statement on Tuesday.
The EU competition authority said the investigation would also focus on MasterCard's rules which hamper merchants from benefiting from better terms offered by other banks and which also force merchants to accept all types of MasterCard's cards.
MasterCard can be fined up to $740 million or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue if found guilty.
EU regulators are also investigating Visa Europe, the European licensee of Visa Inc and Europe's largest card network, over its card fees.
The Commission said it planned to propose rules on card fees before the summer to ensure a level playing field.