Hungary’s antitrust regulator confirmed that it’s investigating alleged abuses by MasterCard Inc. over the company’s dominant position on the interbank market.
Interbank commissions charged by MasterCard, whose market share exceeds 75% in Hungary, “may serve to squeeze out” its “only serious competitor,” Visa Europe Ltd., on which the European Commission has imposed price limits, the Budapest-based regulator said today by e-mail.
MasterCard was informed of the investigation in June, the company said Aug. 1 in a quarterly report. The probe focuses on a period beginning December 2010, it said.
Visa Europe has received an antitrust complaint from the bloc’s regulators over the fees it charges to process cross-border credit-card payments.
Visa Europe’s so-called multilateral interchange fees “harm competition between acquiring banks, inflate the cost of payment card acceptance for merchants and ultimately increase consumer prices,” the commission said July 31 in an e-mailed statement. The company can defend itself in writing or seek a hearing before EU regulators decide on fines that could reach 10% of annual sales.
Hungary’s antitrust regulator fined MasterCard and Visa Europe 477 million forint ($2.1 million) each in 2009, saying they colluded with local banks on fees charged to credit-card customers between 1996 and 2008. MasterCard, which denies any wrongdoing and appealed that decision, paid the fine in the fourth quarter of 2009.