The UK’s Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) published its proposed Strategy in June for the coming five years. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) response to the consultation can be found below (scroll to bottom), after the joint statement covered in today's news from the BRC, British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and UKHospitality. In the absence of effective proposals in the Strategy to tackle longstanding anti-competitive practices in card payments, we are calling for Parliamentary (Treasury Committee) intervention – for the Committee to assess the PSR and its proposed Strategy against its statutory objectives.
Urgent action is needed to protect businesses and customers from soaring card costs, yet there is a conspicuous absence of any meaningful commitment to address current harms within card payments despite substantial and increasing evidence of excessive and ever-growing costs to users – including evidence gathered by the PSR itself. The Strategy document conflates present day harms, for which action is overdue, as risks to be considered at some point in the future. No measurable outcomes have been defined and no timeframe established within which the PSR will intervene in the coming 5 years if competitive outcomes continue not to be seen.
More generally, the Strategy lacks essential details required for the PSR to hold itself to account, or for others to do so. There is an absence of specific, measurable and time-limited objectives that would make it difficult to assess the PSR’s success in achieving good outcomes.
As the PSR is accountable to Parliament, the BRC wrote to a handful of MPs with a briefing in May to request their help ahead of the publication of the PSR Strategy. Almost 40 Parliamentarians supported a cross-party action calling for robust regulatory measures on card fees in the PSR Strategy, including the regulation of payment card schemes fees and the abolition of interchange fees, yet this has not featured in the proposals.
Last year a UK Supreme Court ruling confirmed that Visa & Mastercard interchange fees are unlawful, creating a considerable anomaly that the PSR continue to allow such fees and have not directly addressed the pressing matter of anti-competitive card fees in its future Strategy.
The thousands of British businesses that we all represent were depending on the PSR Strategy to include long-awaited measures to tackle excessive and ever-increasing card costs which ultimately add to the price of goods and services paid by consumers. It isn’t here. The BRC, BIRA, ACS, FSB & UK Hospitality are all asking Parliament's Treasury Committee to steer the PSR towards thinking again.