MasterCard to drop ‘illegal’ fees

June 13, 2008

MasterCard Inc., the giant credit card company based in Purchase, said this week it will drop 40-year-old transaction fees that European regulators have declared illegal.

The European Commission said last December the company had to devise an alternative to its interchange fees that doesn’t harm consumers. The commission said MasterCard would face a daily penalty of up to 3.5 percent of sales if it did not revise the interchange fees.

The interchange fees are paid from bank to bank on each cross-border payment transaction. The fees cost consumers as much as 13.5 billion euros (about $21 billion) a year, according to the European Retail Round Table, a lobby group for 14 retailers.

MasterCard said it would drop the fees as of June 21, but will continue discussions with the commission about a better way to structure the fees.

The company is also appealing the commission’s decision to the European Court of First Instance.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Silent on Interchange Fees. Why?

November 27, 2007

As a longtime member of our local [Irvine] Chamber of Commerce [since 1990] we are wondering why the U.S. Chamber has not played a more active role in our battle against Visa, MasterCard and its thousands of member banks?  Could it be that the member banks are more active and well-funded members than 30 Minute Photos Etc. and ScanMyPhotos.com?

The closest to informational activism we came across was from a search of the word “interchange” which linked to this advisory written by one of the nation’s card processor’s, so really not much meat there. 

From the US Chamber website:

 Representing your ideas—and interests—in Washington for nearly a century.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions. It includes hundreds of associations, thousands of local chambers, and more than 100 American Chambers of Commerce in 91 countries.

Whether you own a business, represent one, lead a corporate office, or manage an association, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America®  provides you with a voice of experience and influence in Washington, D.C., and around the globe. Our core mission is to fight for business and free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.

From its headquarters near the White House, the Chamber maintains a professional staff of more than 300 of the nation’s top policy experts, lobbyists, lawyers, and communicators. The Washington staff is supported by eight regional offices around the country; offices in New York and Brussels; an on-the-ground presence in China; and a network of grassroots business activists.

Our members include businesses of all sizes and sectors—from large Fortune 500 companies to home-based, one-person operations. In fact, 96% of our membership encompasses businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Mission Statement:

“To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility.”

Programs and Affiliates

  • The National Chamber Litigation Center—our law firm that defends business interests and sues government agencies.
  • The Institute for Legal Reform—the Chamber affiliate that challenges lawsuit abuse on many fronts, fights for legal reform legislation, and educates voters in state judicial and attorney general races.
  • The National Chamber Foundation—our public policy think tank that drives the debate, develops the data and arguments, and influences policy options on the most critical business issues.
  • The Political Program—the Chamber’s aggressive political action component that endorses, supports, raises money, and turns out the vote for pro-business congressional candidates from both parties who are engaged in key races.  
  • Business Civic Leadership Center—an organization devoted to facilitating corporate civic and humanitarian initiatives.

Why Visa, MasterCard and its Member Banks Are Accused of Illegal Price-Fixing by Agreement

November 21, 2007

We found this very simple defination of price-fixing on the Wikipedia site [click here for more info].

Price fixing is an agreement between business competitors to sell the same product or service at the same price. In general, it is an agreement intended to ultimately push the price of a product as high as possible, leading to profits for all the sellers. Price-fixing can also involve any agreement to fix, peg, discount or stabilize prices. The principal feature is any agreement on price, whether express or implied. For the buyer, meanwhile, the practice results in a phenomenon similar to price gouging.

Methods of price fixing will include selling at a common target price; setting a common “minimum” price; buying the product from a supplier at a specified “maximum” price; adhering to a price book or list price; engagement in cooperative price advertising; standardizing financial credit terms offered to purchasers; using uniform trade-in allowances; limiting discounts; discontinuing a free service or fixing the price of one component of an overall service; adhering uniformly to previously-announced prices and terms of sale; establishing uniform costs and markups; imposing mandatory surcharges; purposefully reducing output or sales; or purposefully sharing or “pooling” markets, territories, or customers.

Generally, price fixing is illegal, but it may nevertheless be tolerated or even sanctioned by some governments at various times, particularly among those whose countries are developing economies. See also Collusion.

In neo-classical economics, price fixing is inefficient: the anti-competitive agreement by producers to fix prices above the market price transfers some of the consumer surplus to those producers and also results in a deadweight loss.

In the United States, price fixing can be prosecuted as a criminal felony offense under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. [1] In Canada, it is an indictable criminal offence under section 45 of the Competition Act. Bid rigging is considered a form of price fixing and is illegal in both the United States (s.1 Sherman Act) and Canada (s.47 Competition Act). In the United States, agreements to fix, raise, lower, stabilize, or otherwise set a price are illegal per se.[2] It does not matter if the price agreed upon is reasonable or for a good or altruistic cause; or if the agreement is explicit and formal or unspoken and tacit. In the United States, price-fixing also includes agreements to hold prices the same, discount prices (even if based on financial need or income), set credit terms, agree on a price schedule or scale, adopt a common formula to figure prices, banning price advertising, or agreeing to adhere to prices that one announces. [3] Although price fixing usually means sellers agreeing on price, it can also include agreements among buyers to fix the price at which they will buy products.

Under American law, exchanging prices among competitors can also violate the antitrust laws. This includes exchanging prices with either the intent to fix prices or if the exchange affects the prices individual competitors set. Proof that competitors have shared prices can be used as part of the evidence of an illegal price fixing agreement. [4] Experts generally advise that competitors avoid even the appearance of agreeing on price. [5]

Under U.S. law, price fixing is only illegal if it is intentional and comes about via communication or agreement between firms or individuals. It is not illegal for a firm to copy the price movements of a de facto market leader called price leadership, which has been seen to be the case in markets for breakfast cereals and cigarettes. But informal agreements or unspoken agreements to fix price also can violate the antitrust laws. The price-fixing laws apply to industries and professionals, for-profit concerns and non-profits and charities. [6] The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division and United States Federal Trade Commission are responsible for enforcing federal price fixing laws; see also Sherman Antitrust Act. The Department of Justice handles both criminal and civil cases. As of 2004 under US law corporations may be fined up to $100 million for criminal price fixing; individuals can be charged and sentenced to prison sentences of up to 10 years for price-fixing violations. The Federal Trade Commission can prosecute firms for price fixing as a civil matter. Many State Attorneys General also bring antitrust cases and have antitrust offices, such as Virginia, New York, and California. Private individuals or organizations can bring their own lawsuits for triple damages for antitrust violations and also recover attorneys fees.

[Source: Via Wikipedia]