In 2019, Mastercard was fined over €570 million for implementing commercial rules which restricted competition in the EEA market for the acquiring of card payment transactions. This preliminary case assessment which focuses on Portugal first details the facts in relation to the infringement by Mastercard of Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 EEA Agreement.
CDC is assisting the Portuguese consumer protection association Ius Omnibus in their collective action. Ius Omnibus represents all consumers in Portugal, irrespective of whether they were Mastercard users.
Mastercard maintained a set of cross-border acquiring rules, which created an obstacle to cross-border trade in acquiring services within the EEA. Cross-border acquiring takes place when the merchant’s bank (‘the acquirer’) is in a different country than the merchant. According to Mastercard rules, a card payment transaction that has been cleared and settled gives rise to an ‘interchange fee’ to be paid by the acquirer to the cardholder’s bank (‘the issuer’). Mastercard rules stipulated that, unless the acquirer had agreed bilaterally with the issuer on the interchange fee, a cross-border acquirer was obliged to apply a domestic MIF set by Mastercard and applicable at the country of the merchants.
Mastercard’s cross-border acquiring rules meant that acquirers offering services in Member States where the domestic MIF were lower were prevented from offering cheaper services based on the MIFs in their ‘home’ countries to merchants based in other Member States where the domestic MIFs were higher. The merchants were also prevented from taking advantage of the internal market and benefiting from less expensive services from card acquirers established in Member States where MIF were lower. Therefore, Mastercard’s cross-border acquiring rules created an obstacle to cross-border trade in the market for acquiring card payment transactions within the EEA.
A consumer claim was filed on 2 December 2020 at the Portuguese Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court by Ius Omnibus, aimed at compensating all Portuguese consumers who were injured by Mastercard’s anticompetitive practices. Ius Omnibus is seeking damages of more than 400 million Euros in total – out if which each consumer in Portugal may receive, on average, 40 Euros.