By Daniel Hunter

A ruling that a decision outlawing charges levied on retailers by MasterCard should be upheld is being called ‘historic and highly significant' by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

In 2007 the charges imposed on UK retailers for the processing of credit and debit card payments from customers in other EU countries (so called cross-border transactions) were declared anti-competitive and unlawful by the European Commission.

MasterCard appealed. Now, today (Thursday) the European Court of Justice - the EU Court — has ruled that MasterCard has lost that appeal.

The BRC has led the fight against these ‘interchange fees', arguing they are much higher than the actual costs that card firms incur in processing transactions and so are an unjustifiable tax on retailers and consumers.

In the UK, the Office of Fair trading (OFT) is investigating fees levied on domestic card transactions. The BRC says it should now take similar action.

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "I applaud the European Court for holding firm on its decision to end this unjustifiable tax on customers. This is a historic and highly significant decision on card charges for transactions between European nations but what comes next is crucial. And that should be fairer costs for customers and retailers whenever they pay by card.

"People deserve the same treatment on card charges when buying within the UK. Hundreds of millions of pounds are at stake. The Office of fair Trading should follow this landmark European ruling with rapid action here."

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