Credit Suisse, UBS probed over alleged payments collusion

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UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG are among a number of Swiss companies being investigated by the local antitrust authority over whether they boycotted international mobile payment services to promote a domestic competitor.

The regulator said it suspects that the companies colluded in an effort to prefer Swiss payment provider Twint by agreeing not to release their credit cards for use by services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. As part of the investigation, which started Nov. 13, offices of the companies were raided, the antitrust authority known as Comco said in a statement Thursday.

“We are surprised by the investigation and convinced that these allegations will be proven baseless," Credit Suisse said in a statement, adding that the bank’s unit Swisscard is offering access to Samsung Pay and Apple Pay.

UBS said it held talks with Apple Pay in 2016 on a cooperation but couldn’t reach an agreement.

Banks are fighting to remain relevant after years of ceding ground to upstarts such as PayPal Holdings Inc.’s Venmo. Visa and Mastercard Inc. have also developed their own digital wallets, as has Samsung Electronics Co., Starbucks Corp. and other retailers. Twint is a Swiss mobile-payment app that was developed by Postfinance and is being promoted by several other institutions.

The antitrust regulator doesn’t usually issue large fines. In 2016, Switzerland handed out about $100 million in antitrust fines against seven U.S. and European banks for participating in cartels to manipulate widely used financial benchmarks.

The companies probed over the payment systems are Swiss units of Credit Suisse and UBS, PostFinance AG, Swisscard AECS GmbH and Aduno Holding AG.

Bloomberg News
Mobile wallets Apple Pay UBS Credit Suisse Switzerland