The credit card giant levies an “interchange” fee on behalf of banks for every payment that uses its network. Payments to hotels, airlines, car rentals and holiday companies from UK-based customers will be affected. The move sparked alarm among firms that rely on online payments to keep business going.
And MPs expressed concern that consumers would see prices increase.
From October 15, Mastercard will charge 1.5 per cent of the transaction value for every online credit card payment from the UK to the EU.
This is a significant jump up from the 0.3 per cent rate at the moment.
For debit card payments, the fee will jump from 0.2 per cent to 1.15 per cent.
The increase will benefit British banks and other card issuers, rather than Mastercard itself.
However, Mastercard has said that “in practice” British consumers would not notice the change.
In 2015 the EU introduced a cap on the amount credit card companies can charge for transactions.
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Domestic purchases from Amazon UK, for example, normally go through a Luxembourg-based company.
One person familiar with its plans said the e-commerce giant could shift where the UK store is located under card network rules to avoid the fee increase on its merchants.
Joel Gladwin, head of policy at the Coalition for a Digital Economy, which represents British start-ups, blasted Mastercard for its “greed”.
He said: “Some people might put this change down to Brexit, but it is actually just greed.
“It is well within the power of the card schemes to make merchants’ lives easy and keep things operating as they were pre-2021.
“Not only does this hurt the already squeezed bottom lines of ecommerce start-ups and subscription businesses, it comes at a time when a huge number of small businesses have shifted to online models to survive.”
The majority of Mastercard’s credit card transactions are processed in the UK, and a growing proportion of debit card payments.
Callum Godwin, chief economist at CMSPI, the global payments consultancy, said industries such as airlines, hotels, car rentals and travel groups would be hit by the move — “anywhere the consumer is in the UK and the merchant is in the EU”.
He said that would deal a heavy blow to these industries, which have suffered for months due to coronavirus lockdowns.