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Check on savings impact from 2009 credit card fee settlements

BUSINESSDESK: The Commerce Commission has embarked on a survey of retailers to find out what impact its 2009 settlement agreements with credit card issuers MasterCard International and Visa and other financial institutions over the fees charged to cover banks' costs of credit card transactions.

The anti-trust regulator will survey more than 3000 retailers nationwide to see what impact the new rules have had at the till, it says.

In 2009, the commission cut deals over fees that were smeared across a range of transactions, including cash and eftpos, to cover the surcharge on credit cards. Vendors spread the cost because they were not allowed to recover the fee directly from cardholders.

At the time of the settlements, the regulator said it expected to see savings to retailers of between $70 million and $80 million. Since the October 2009 settlement, annual total credit card billings in New Zealand have grown every month except in July of this year when it was flat, according to Reserve Bank data.

"We want to know what their experience has been since the credit card scheme rules have been changed," commission chairman Mark Berry says.

The settlements meant credit card issuers could individually set intercharge rates that applied to credit card transactions, merchants could apply surcharges to payments made by credit card and non-bank institutions could join the Visa and MasterCard credit card schemes as acquirers if they met certain criteria.

The regulator recovered $3 million from the MasterCard settlement, $2.6 million from Visa, and an aggregate $1 million from ANZ National, ASB, Westpac New Zealand, Bank of New Zealand, Kiwibank, TSB Bank and Warehouse Financial Services.