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UK Payment Regulator Faults Visa and Mastercard for Fee Hikes

by Jared Kirui

  • Over the past five years, Visa and Mastercard have increased transaction processing fees by more than 30%.
  • According to the regulator, the rising cost has not resulted in better services.

fintech payments

UK’s payments regulator has raised concerns about the steep fee hikes imposed by Visa and Mastercard on retailers, highlighting a lack of competitiveness in the payment card market, Reuters reported. Despite the substantial increase in fees, there is reportedly little evidence that these costs have led to better services. Thus, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has proposed new measures to enhance transparency and competition.

Cost to UK Businesses

Visa and Mastercard dominate the UK’s payment card market, a situation that has led to growing scrutiny from lawmakers. The PSR’s recent findings indicate that over the past five years, the fees charged by these two companies have increased by more than 30% after accounting for changes in transaction volumes. Despite these hikes, the quality of service has not shown a corresponding improvement.

In 2022, card transactions in Britain totaled 27.1 billion, amounting to Β£954 billion. The PSR’s interim report estimates that the increase in fees has added over Β£250 million annually to the cost of business in the UK. With Mastercard and Visa accounting for 95% of UK-issued card transactions, businesses have little choice but to bear these additional expenses, which are often passed on to consumers through higher prices for goods and services.

The PSR’s report highlighted the absence of effective competition, which has allowed Visa and Mastercard to raise prices unchecked. However, Visa has defended its fees by pointing to the high value it provides through security and operational resilience. Similarly, Mastercard disputed the PSR’s findings, arguing that the payments industry is highly competitive, with numerous options available to consumers.

To address these issues, the PSR has proposed several remedies for public consultation. These include enhancing user transparency and requiring Mastercard and Visa to explain and document the reasons behind price changes. The PSR also suggested more detailed reporting of financial information to improve oversight of the companies’ operations in the UK.

Settlement Scrutiny

The public consultation period is open until July 30. The PSR is expected to release a final report on card schemes and processing fees in the final quarter of the year. If the final report supports the provisional findings, the PSR will consult on implementing the proposed remedies to ensure the market functions more effectively for businesses and consumers.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation (NRF) recently objected to a settlement between Visa, Mastercard, and merchants regarding swipe fees. Despite promises of fee reductions and caps over five years, NRF deems the settlement insufficient to address merchants’ long-standing grievances.

NRF expressed dissatisfaction with the settlement, emphasizing that the proposed relief measures are minimal and temporary. The pledge to reduce transaction fees by four basis points for three years and overall average rates by seven basis points for five years falls short of NRF’s expectations for meaningful relief.

UK’s payments regulator has raised concerns about the steep fee hikes imposed by Visa and Mastercard on retailers, highlighting a lack of competitiveness in the payment card market, Reuters reported. Despite the substantial increase in fees, there is reportedly little evidence that these costs have led to better services. Thus, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has proposed new measures to enhance transparency and competition.

Cost to UK Businesses

Visa and Mastercard dominate the UK’s payment card market, a situation that has led to growing scrutiny from lawmakers. The PSR’s recent findings indicate that over the past five years, the fees charged by these two companies have increased by more than 30% after accounting for changes in transaction volumes. Despite these hikes, the quality of service has not shown a corresponding improvement.

In 2022, card transactions in Britain totaled 27.1 billion, amounting to Β£954 billion. The PSR’s interim report estimates that the increase in fees has added over Β£250 million annually to the cost of business in the UK. With Mastercard and Visa accounting for 95% of UK-issued card transactions, businesses have little choice but to bear these additional expenses, which are often passed on to consumers through higher prices for goods and services.

The PSR’s report highlighted the absence of effective competition, which has allowed Visa and Mastercard to raise prices unchecked. However, Visa has defended its fees by pointing to the high value it provides through security and operational resilience. Similarly, Mastercard disputed the PSR’s findings, arguing that the payments industry is highly competitive, with numerous options available to consumers.

To address these issues, the PSR has proposed several remedies for public consultation. These include enhancing user transparency and requiring Mastercard and Visa to explain and document the reasons behind price changes. The PSR also suggested more detailed reporting of financial information to improve oversight of the companies’ operations in the UK.

Settlement Scrutiny

The public consultation period is open until July 30. The PSR is expected to release a final report on card schemes and processing fees in the final quarter of the year. If the final report supports the provisional findings, the PSR will consult on implementing the proposed remedies to ensure the market functions more effectively for businesses and consumers.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation (NRF) recently objected to a settlement between Visa, Mastercard, and merchants regarding swipe fees. Despite promises of fee reductions and caps over five years, NRF deems the settlement insufficient to address merchants’ long-standing grievances.

NRF expressed dissatisfaction with the settlement, emphasizing that the proposed relief measures are minimal and temporary. The pledge to reduce transaction fees by four basis points for three years and overall average rates by seven basis points for five years falls short of NRF’s expectations for meaningful relief.

Jared Kirui

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Jared is an experienced financial journalist passionate about all things forex and CFDs.

  • 882 Articles
  • 11 Followers

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