On January 31, 2007, the Commission published the final report of its sector inquiry into retail banking after an 18-month long investigation. The report highlighted a number of serious competition concerns in the payment cards, payment systems and retail banking product markets, which EU Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said 'unnecessarily raised the cost of retail banking services for European firms and consumers'. Further to the report, the Commission has signalled its intention to focus on the interchange fees charged by credit card companies. Interchange fees are charged by the card holder’s bank and the seller’s bank each time a credit or debit card is used to make a purchase. Both fees are passed onto the seller who in turn passes the fees onto consumers in the form of higher retail prices. Although the report suggests that the Commission has ruled out a total ban of such fees, it is concerned at the high level of the fees and the discrepancy in charges across Europe. In a speech on February 19, 2007, Neelie Kroes said that the Commission would be revisiting the effect of Visa’s interchange fees on competition as soon as Visa’s exemption from competition action expires at the end of 2007. The Commission is also reportedly about to conclude its investigation into how Mastercard establishes its interchange fees.
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