Top retailers have urged the European Commission to cap “excessive” fees charged by banks for processing card payments ahead of a debate on the issue today.
Some 13 chief executives of large UK retailers - including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Asda, Kingfisher, Morrisons, Home Retail Group and Boots - have signed a letter sent to MEPs to encourage them to reduce card fees so they can invest in their businesses.
Card payment fees on credit or debit cards cost British retailers £850m each year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
This summer the European Commission tabled plans to limit charges at 0.2% for debit cards and 0.3% for credit cards. Currently, UK fees range from 0.1%up to 2.5%. The new charges would save retailers £362m each year.
The Commission also put forward plans to scrap the “honour all cards rule”, as at the moment retailers must accept all major cards.
In the letter, retailers said: “The market in which we operate is highly competitive. We compete on price and value every day and put our customers at the heart of everything we do. Any savings in a reduction in card interchange fees will create capital to enable a range of investments.”
The chief executives warned that “any dilution of [the proposals] will simply allow these excessive costs to continue, remove transparency and result in a lack of proper competition within the banking sector”.
The BRC said that the plans are at risk of being “significantly” delayed unless progress is made on the proposals before the next European election.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “We are now extremely concerned that this vital initiative is at risk.
“Here in this letter we have an important coalition of some of Britain’s biggest retailers, united in support of this important reform. The window for change is limited and with European parliamentary elections and a new European Commission in the middle of 2014, change needs to come now.”
Card payment providers Visa and Mastercard have criticised the proposals because they believe retailers will not pass savings on to customers.
MEPs are set to debate the issue in Brussels today.