European Union fines MasterCard over €570million for cross-border barriers

Mastercard Inc. credit cards are displayed in this picture illustration.

The European Commission said on Tuesday it had fined Mastercard 570.6 million euros (an equivalent of $648.3 million) for limiting the possibility for merchants to benefit from better conditions offered by banks elsewhere in the European Union.

“By preventing merchants from shopping around for better conditions offered by banks in other member states, Mastercard’s rules artificially raised the costs of card payments, harming consumers and retailers in the EU,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The Commission granted Mastercard a 10 percent fine reduction for cooperating with its investigation.

The fine is the latest in a series of actions over the past decade that the Commission, acting as the antitrust regulator for the 28-member European Union, has taken to reduce card fees for merchants.

It has, for example, taken decisions to make legally binding commitments by Visa Europe to cap the levels of interchange fees for all debit and credit card transactions within the European Economic Area.

It has also looked into the fees charged on card payments made by tourists visiting the European Union.

Mastercard said on Tuesday that the fine would be taken as a charge in the fourth quarter of 2018, calling the closure of the case an important milestone for the company.

“This decision relates to historic practices only, covers a limited period of time of less than 2 years and will not require any modification of Mastercard’s current business practices,” it said in a statement.

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