Francesco Ciraolo

The New Rules on Multilateral Interchange Fees. What Effects on the Consumers?

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Interchange Fees; Payment Services; Multi-sided Markets; Consumer Protection.

The legislative framework on payment services has been significantly innovated by Regulation (EU) 2015/751 on interchange fees for card-based payment transactions, transposed into the Italian legal system by legislative decree n. 218/17. These new rules have established a maximum level for the interchange fees (usually applied between the card-acquiring payment service providers and the card-issuing payment service providers belonging to a certain payment card scheme), with the aim of facilitating the integration of the internal market in the area of card-based payments and avoiding significant distortions of competition due to diverging laws and administrative decisions, to the benefit of both merchants and consumers. In this regard, as interchange fees are charged to merchants by acquiring payment service providers for every card-based payment transaction, and merchants tend to incorporate those costs in the general prices of goods and services, the imposition of a cap on the interchange fees is also expected to determine a decrease in retail prices. Nevertheless, some empirical evidences seem to show that caps on interchange fees can cause an overall increase in the costs for the consumers, especially with regard to the offering of banking services (see for example the effects of the Durbin amendment in the USA). After illustrating the rationale of the interchange fees, in the light of the economic theory of multi-sided markets, and the new regulatory approach to the concerned matter, this study specifically focuses on the effects that the recent rules may have on the consumers, trying to assess whether the application of the new framework can justify, from a legal point of view, any (pejorative) changes in the contractual terms agreed between banks and consumers.

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