Thursday, April 29, 2010
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Alberto Heimler, Government of the Italian Republic (Italy) - Advanced School of Public Administration explores Payment Cards Pricing Patterns: The Role of Antitrust and Regulatory Authorities.
Antitrust enforcers and regulators are increasingly worried that interchange fees in four-party systems, more than being an instrument for addressing usage externality, had become a collusionary device, setting a floor under which the charges could not go. Competition is not working effectively in card payment systems. The reason is that with the non discrimination rule in place, the cost of payment services is transferred by merchants to all buyers, not just to cardholders. As a result, cardholders (that do not pay for the cost of their choice) tend to use the payment instrument that offers the highest private benefits to them (the one with the better reward system), often the most costly. In turn, issuers tend to offer to consumers the cards that provide the highest interchange fee. This paper shows that eliminating the interchange fee and allowing for both issuers and acquirers to charge cardholders and merchants respectively may lead to the internalization of usage externalities and to markets for payment services to operate more effectively. Furthermore the elimination of the no-discrimination rule may also discipline three party systems, as the Australian example shows.