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Visa cannot increase interchange fees for the time being

Updated at 06 Mar 2024 10:50 am

For the time being, the credit card company Visa cannot set the fees charged by merchants on debit cards at a higher level than stipulated by the Competition Commission. The Federal Administrative Court rejected a precautionary measure on Tuesday. In doing so, it upheld a Weko decision.

At the end of 2023, the Competition Commission (ComCo) opened an investigation into Visa's interchange fees. Visa wanted to increase this fee, which flows from the merchant to the bank on which the card is used for debit card transactions, after reducing it to EU level. The ComCo Secretariat found this to be inappropriate.

Visa subsequently asked the Competition Commission to declare the higher fee permissible until the investigation had been completed. The ComCo rejected this on the grounds that such a step would be contrary to antitrust law.

Visa challenged this interim ruling at the Federal Administrative Court in St. Gallen. According to the court, Visa's sole purpose in applying to the Competition Commission was to get away without sanctions during the investigation.

However, an exemption from sanctions sought in the company's own interests is contrary to the Cartel Act. This law stipulates that companies must also bear the risk of sanctions. The Administrative Court also found that the preliminary antitrust assessment of the Competition Commission Secretariat provided sufficient legal certainty.

The decision of the Federal Administrative Court is not good news for Swiss merchants, Visa wrote in a reaction on Tuesday evening. Visa had already reduced the interchange fees for debit payments in July last year to a level that corresponds to that of the EU. However, Swiss merchants did not fully benefit from this due to legal uncertainty.

(judgment B-5972/2023)

©Keystone/SDA

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