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Another important area where the Commission intervened under art. 81 of the Treaty relates to card and payment systems. The first case concerned various rules and regulations that Visa International notified to the Commission in January 1977 applying for negative clearance under art. 81(1) or an exemption under art. 81(3). The Commission sent initially a comfort letter in 1992, but reopened the case in 1997 after a complaint filled by a British association of retailers. The case turned out to be quite complicated and lasted for several years. The Commission issued several decisions pertaining to different aspects of the proposed agreement. The mostly disputed aspect concerned the EU intra- regional Multilateral Interchange Fee (MIF), that is the interchange reimbursement fee that the acquiring bank has to pay to the issuing bank for each intra-regional transaction with a Visa card where issuer and acquirer are different. The initial point of dispute was the possibility for the Visa Board to set the MIF at whatever level and to keep it secret. At the end of a long and complicated negotiation process, Visa proposed a package of reforms and the Commission granted an exemption under art. 81(3). The reformed proposal contained a reduction of both the level of the intra-regional MFI to a fixed rate per transaction of EUR 0.28 for direct debit cards and the level of the ad valorem per transaction fee applicable to certain types of credit and deferred cards till an average level of 0.7% by 2007. These modifications represented a reduction of more than 50% of the costs for an average direct debit card transaction and of more than 20% for the other category. Visa proposed also to fix the fees in a transparent way on the basis of cost studies carried out by Visa and audited by an independent accounting firm. The MIF would not exceed a cap based on three categories of costs: the cost of processing transactions, the cost of free funding for cardholders and the cost of providing the payment guarantee. The imposition of a cap on the MIF was meant to prevent the association of issuers from setting excessively high interchange fees. According to Rochet (2007), however, such cap has no economic basis since there is no clear evidence of a market failure and pricing distortions may go either way.

The Commission intervened again against Visa under art. 81 in October 2007 when it imposed a fine of €10.2 million. The infringement concerned the refusal of Visa to accept Morgan Stanley as a member in the United Kingdom from March 2000 till September


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