MasterCard response to the Department of Finance public consultation Regulation (EU) 2015/751 on Interchange Fees for Card-based payment transactions

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1 MasterCard response to the Department of Finance public consultation Regulation (EU) 2015/751 on Interchange Fees for Card-based payment transactions MasterCard MasterCard Worldwide (MasterCard) is a public-listed, global payments technology company that connects billions of consumers, thousands of financial institutions, millions of merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories around the world, including Ireland where our ground-breaking innovation lab is based. We own a family of well-known brands, including MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus and license financial services providers to use those brands in conducting payment transactions. MasterCard operates the world s fastest payments network to facilitate the processing of payment transactions in more than 150 currencies, including authorisation, clearing and settlement. Our open system delivers solutions for consumers, businesses and governments who seek faster, more secure and smarter payment methods for the widest possible range of goods and services. Overview and approach MasterCard welcomes the Department of Finance s consultative approach to the implementation of the EU regulation on Interchange Fees for card based transactions. We hope to make a valuable contribution by sharing our experience and expertise in the field of payments. The Irish government has already recognised the importance of electronic payments in growing the economy and supporting e-commerce to thrive through the publication of the National Payments Plan ( NPP ) and National Digital Strategy ( NDS ). MasterCard fully supports this approach and we offer our comments with the aim of helping to protect these objectives. However, a balanced regulatory framework is needed to mitigate the risk of slowing innovation and to promote efficient, competitive and secure payment methods for society as a whole, for example supporting electronic payments over inefficient cash. The Interchange Fee Regulation ( IFR ) will have a profound impact on the electronic payments landscape in Ireland. The approach we recommend therefore aims to bolster the effectiveness of the IFR and minimise any adverse impacts or unintended consequences, which could distort competition and create new challenges for those involved in payments, including consumers and merchants. To achieve this we believe the following approach is required: Three and four-party schemes should be subject to equal regulatory treatment (Article I (Scope)) to enable competition, three and four-party card schemes should be subject to equal regulatory treatment. To achieve this, three-party schemes operating with licensee, agent or cobrand partners ( de facto four-party card schemes ) should be subject to the IFR fee caps at the same time as four-party schemes. However, if the government chooses to consider exemptions from the fee caps in favour of de facto four-party schemes by applying the three percent threshold, we believe the legislation is clear, namely that the market share should be calculated based on all three-party card scheme transactions (i.e. both pure three-party and de facto fourparty transactions) out of all the domestic card transactions in that same country. Introducing a 0.2% domestic debit interchange cap and 0.3% domestic credit interchange cap will have the smallest negative impact on consumers. Reducing the level further will have an 1

2 increasingly negative impact (Article III and Article IV) at these levels alone, the IFR will have a substantial impact, with issuing banks losing at least m euros per annum, which in turn will likely have significantly increase costs for consumers and small merchants. We therefore strongly recommend the government implements a 0.3% cap for domestic credit interchange and a 0.2% cap for domestic debit interchange, with a view to then monitoring the impact in Ireland over the subsequent three years. 1. Interchange provides significant value for merchants and consumers The interchange fee is a small fee that reflects the extraordinary value merchants receive from accepting card payments and ensures they pay their fair share for the value they receive, rather than allocating a larger share of the costs of operating the system to consumers. Market-based interchange rates provide a balance between consumers and merchants, in which each party pays its fair share for the value and benefits it receives and each receives maximum value at the lowest possible costs. Merchants in particular receive enormous value from accepting cards, especially the most important commercial benefit: they increase sales. Studies show that consumers spend more when they use cards and merchants therefore make more money when they accept cards. A recent study by the European Central Bank documents this increase in spending. The study showed that the average cash payer spent only 18 per transaction, while the average debit card payer spent 50 and the average credit card user spent 70. These increases in spending are precisely the reason merchants began accepting cards and with the increasing numbers of cards in the market these spending increases have become more valuable over time. Market-based interchange fees are fundamental to creating this environment, as they enable a balance that delivers maximum value to consumers and merchants at the lowest costs possible to each. Setting interchange at the optimal level also particularly benefits financial inclusion efforts and innovation in payments: Financial inclusion debit interchange set at a 0.2% cap provides the best possible chance under the IFRs to maximise the growth of new electronic payments technologies that have the ability to markedly improve financial inclusion. Products such as prepaid debit cards have been recognised as helping to increase financial inclusion, as they increasingly have full bank account functionality plus budgeting capability and additional support services, providing cost efficient technology to support departmental relationships with constituents. However, while the U.S. chose to exempt prepaid cards from its interchange regulation, debit interchange regulation still resulted in driving over 1 million people out of the banking system, for example due to higher current account charges. Innovation electronic payments can deliver demonstrable change for people, businesses, and governments, as recognised in the NPP and the NDS. Prior to interchange regulation, developments in Ireland include the adoption of contactless payments; mobile e-wallets; prepaid cards increasing access to a transactional bank account; mobile Point of Sale ( mpos ) devices; and Small and Medium-Enterprise ( SME ) e-commerce solutions. Many of these have been developed in partnership with government and business. Interchange regulation will likely have an adverse impact on investment in innovations such as these at precisely the same time as innovation is increasingly demanded by consumers, merchants and the government. 2

3 2. Three and four-party schemes should be subject to equal regulatory treatment (Article I (Scope)) Question 1 With regard to domestic payment transactions, do you think Ireland should avail of the discretionary exemption contained within Article 1, paragraph 5 in relation to three party payment card schemes that operate here via other licensed payment service providers, with co-branding partners or through an agent? Question 2 Can you identify potential positive and negative impacts of your preferred approach? The IFR agreed, in principle, to impose caps on interchange in relation to four-party card schemes as well as three-party card schemes operating with licensee, agent or co-brand partners ( de facto fourparty card schemes ), in order to create a level playing field and avoid circumvention of the legislation. As the Ministry of Finance has identified, individual Member States can exempt such a de facto fourparty card scheme from the obligations of Chapter II for three years from when the interchange fee caps become applicable (09 December 2015). However, such an exemption is only able to occur if, cardbased payment transactions made in a Member State under such a three-party payment card scheme do not exceed on a yearly basis 3% of the value of all card-based payment transactions made in that Member State. There are two fundamental issues that we recommend the government consider when determining its position. The first is the impact that such an exemption is likely to have on the end-users of card payments in Ireland consumers and merchants. All card schemes compete for position by offering Irish citizens value-added services such as rewards, priceless experiences, and technical innovations. A key enabler of the vibrant growth of the Irish payments market is Ireland s balanced, equitable and stable regulatory environment in which vigorous, open competition is conducted against a backdrop of appropriate regulatory protections. Any other approach threatens to undermine the competitive payments landscape in Ireland, which in turn underpins the future success of the NDS, the NPP and ultimately the economy. An exemption of de facto four-party card schemes will provide these schemes with a significant, unfair advantage over their rivals. These schemes contract with financial institutions to issue/distribute their cards and connect with merchants. For each transaction, merchants are charged a fee, a portion of which is used to fund payments to the card issuing financial institution as interchange equivalent, which has been acknowledged by the European Commission. De facto four-party schemes compete directly with MasterCard for precisely the same consumers, merchants and financial institutions. If de facto four-party schemes are exempted, card issuers can be expected to issue these cards to obtain market based interchange rates as a way of recouping the 70%+ drop in interchange revenue from MasterCard-branded cards. As a result, many consumers will have to pay higher cardholder fees for the richer product offerings of these de facto four-party cards, made possible because of their interchange advantage. Additionally, consumers who hold regulated cards will pay more for those cards and receive less in return. 3

4 As cardholder usage increases and more de facto four-party cards enter the market, this in turn leads to more merchants feeling compelled to accept the most expensive brand of card. Smaller merchants in particular will pay higher acceptance costs (i.e. Merchant Service Charges ) for payment card transactions made on de facto four-party cards. Evidence shows that the merchant cost of accepting de facto-four party card schemes is already higher on average than the cost of accepting the classic fourparty card schemes (between 0.8 percent and 1 percent more of the transaction value), but can be much greater for smaller merchants. Given the large numbers of small merchants in Ireland (approximately 185,000), this is likely to have a serious impact on them and the consumers they serve, since those higher MSCs will be passed onto the latter in the form of higher retail prices. Modelling conducted by MasterCard shows the following cost implications for merchants in Ireland if de facto four-party cards are excluded for a three year period: A one percent increase in market share would increase costs for Irish merchants accepting these cards by 5 million/year ( 15 million for the three years) A two percent increase in market share would increase acceptance costs by 10 million/year ( 30 million for three years) A three percent increase in market share would increase acceptance costs by 15 million/year ( 45 million for three years) A five percent increase in market share would increase acceptance costs by 25 million ( 75 million for three years) A ten percent increase in market share would increase acceptance costs by 50 million ( 150 million for three years) This overall scenario has been happening in Australia for the last twelve years, where de facto four-party card schemes are unregulated their market share doubled to 22%; consumer costs rose by 50% and small merchant acceptance costs are now up to ten times more expensive than those of their large competitors. The second issue is the calculation of the three percent threshold. If the government determines that it wishes to exercise the exemption, MasterCard believes that the three percent should be calculated to include the value of all three-party card scheme transactions in Ireland (i.e. consumer and commercial card transactions made with both pure three- party cards and de facto four-party cards) out of the total value of all the domestic card transactions in Ireland. We believe there is a strong legal rationale that justifies such an approach: Art. 1(4a) dealing with the three percent exemption appears in Chapter I, Article 1, which is about the scope of application of the Regulation and which applies to all card-based payments, whether with consumer card and/or commercial card. Therefore not only consumer cards but also commercial cards need to be included in the calculation. Art. 1(4a) also refers to the card-based payment transactions made in a Member State under such a three party payment card scheme, without any limitation to the transactions involving a 4

5 licensee/agent/co-brand partner. Therefore all transactions within a three-party scheme that also operates a de facto four-party scheme should be included in the calculation. Article 29 of the draft Payment Services Directive II, regarding access to card payment schemes, brings the rules around access to three-party schemes in line with those applicable to four-party schemes. This alignment will bring tangible benefits to merchants across Europe as the competition for acquiring three-party transactions will over time lead to lower card acceptance cost to merchants, which is already the case for four-party schemes. It also reinforces that the three percent threshold calculation should include all transactions within a three-party scheme that also operates a de facto four-party scheme/s. Supporting this legal interpretation is the reality of how de facto four-party card schemes will seek to leverage any exemption from the IFR, in that they will use their entire cards portfolio when negotiating with merchants. Therefore, in recognition of this collective benefit, all card payment transactions should be included in any threshold calculation, which will also reduce the possibility of three-party card schemes circumventing the legislation by leveraging other forms of collaboration and intermediaries that might not be covered under the legislation. 3. Introducing a 0.2% domestic debit interchange cap and 0.3% domestic credit interchange cap will have the smallest negative impact on consumers. Reducing the level further will have an increasingly negative impact (Article III and Article IV) Question 3 With regard to domestic debit card transactions, do you think Ireland should opt for: (i) a per transaction fee cap of lower than 0.2% and impose a fixed maximum fee as a limit on the amount resulting from the applicable percentage rate; [Article 3.2 (a)]; (ii) a combination fee cap of up to 5c (combined with a maximum percentage rate of up to 0.2%) provided that the sum of interchange fees of the payment card scheme does not exceed 0.2% of the total annual transaction value of the domestic debit card transactions within each payment card scheme [Article 3.2 (b)]; or (iii) a weighted average fee cap of up to 0.2% of the annual average transaction value of all domestic debit card transactions within each payment card scheme. [Article 3.3]. Question 4 Can you identify potential positive and negative impacts of your preferred approach? Question 5 With regard to domestic credit card transactions, do you think Ireland should opt for a per transaction fee cap of lower than 0.3% [Article 4]? Question 6 Can you identify the potential positive/negative impacts of your preferred approach? By setting interchange at the appropriate levels, MasterCard is able to achieve a balance that delivers maximum value to consumers and merchants at the lowest costs possible to each. The regulation of interchange fees will fundamentally alter the economics behind card payments. Like any valuable service with advanced technology behind it where innovation and development is vital, flexibility in fees 5

6 is essential to ensure the service keeps pace with the needs of all stakeholders. The IFR has essentially removed this flexibility and the impact on schemes, participants and end-users will be profound. This in turn will have an impact on the ability of the government to fulfil the NPP and NDS recommendations. In 2013, MasterCard commissioned economist Anthony Foley from Dublin City University to examine the impact of a possible regulation-induced reduction in interchange fees on the use of card payments in Ireland. At the time of the study, average domestic debit interchange rates were 7c and average domestic credit interchange rates were 1.15%. The study recommended that the government should not support the proposed regulation of domestic interchange fees without first undertaking an official comprehensive empirical analysis of the possible consequences on, inter alia, consumers, merchants, bank revenue and the overall economy. This recommendation was made because the report found that banks would lose m euros annually ( 89.3m credit interchange and 18.48m debit interchange, equating to 65% of card revenues) if interchange levels were capped at 0.2% for debit and 0.3% for credit. In light of the continuing need for banks to improve/restore profitability, they would likely look to recoup this loss through a variety of fees and charges, equating to annual charge per credit card and 4.62 annual charge per debit card. These possible new charges would likely act as a further barrier in the efforts to reduce cash and cheque usage in Ireland, which unfortunately already sees the country in the top three highest usages for both forms of payment across the EU. This harm to consumers and small merchants of interchange regulation is clearly evident in Australia, the US and Spain, where interchange regulation has been in force for some time: Australia: the Reserve Bank of Australia regulated domestic credit card interchange fees in While large merchants benefited from lower acceptance costs, consumers paid the price and now pay up to 50% more for their cards, as well as higher APRs. In addition, the Reserve Bank of Australia s 2014 national report on interchange regulation acknowledged that small merchants were paying up to ten times more to accept cards compared to large merchants. United States. U.S. consumers suffered similar consequences when debit interchange was regulated in the U.S in Over 75% of banks have stopped offering fee-free current accounts and monthly fees have doubled, from $6 to $12. In addition, large retailers received 30 times more pass through from interchange reductions than small merchants. Spain. Government intervention resulted in a billion reduction in interchange over a five year period ( ). Again, while merchants received a significant cost reduction during that period, consumers paid the price and had to bear more than a 50% increase in annual fees for standard four-party payment cards. The additional cost to consumers amounts to billion over the five year period. Other fees have also been increased, such as those charged to consumers for overdrafts and debt claims. Consumers saw their card rewards and promotions reduced in addition to paying more for these reduced benefits. As outlined above, the impact on issuer revenue as a result of capping credit interchange at 0.3% will be substantial. It is therefore our strong recommendation that the government does not implement domestic consumer credit interchange lower than a cap of 0.3%, as suggested in the IFR, and then monitors/reviews the impact of this level on Irish consumers and merchants in preparation for the European Commission review of the IFR, assumed to commence sometime in As regards consumer debit transactions, MasterCard believes that a cap of 0.2% is likely to be more manageable for Irish issuers and that the cost implications for consumers will therefore likely be small. 6

7 Anything else (e.g. a 0.2% weighted average or flat caps in Eurocents) will see further significant issuer losses, which in turn will have an increasingly negative effect on the availability and costs of debit card products for the consumer. As with our recommendation on domestic consumer credit interchange, the government would be able to monitor and evaluate the impact of a 0.2% domestic consumer debit cap, in preparation for the European Commission review of the IFR. 7

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