French Antitrust Agency Focuses on Credit Cards, Media in 2012

Payment methods, media concentration and online retailing are priorities for France’s competition regulator for 2012, with reports and decisions scheduled in each area this year.

The Competition Authority will continue efforts on payment methods, focusing now on fees associated with credit cards, automatic withdrawals and transfers, president Bruno Lasserre said today in Paris. The regulator has not decided whether to pursue sanctions to achieve this, he said.

Banks challenged a 384.9 million euro-fine ($505 million) on check fees levied in 2010, and the Paris appeals court should rule soon on their bid to overturn the penalty, Lasserre said. Lenders cut interbank fees on bank cards by as much as 36 percent to settle a probe last year.

The regulator, which gained merger-control powers in 2009, will issue decisions this summer on Vivendi SA’s Canal Plus pay-television unit’s revisions to its 2006 deal with Television Par Satellite, or TPS, and its offers to buy channels TNT Direct and Direct Star. The authority revoked approval of the TPS merger in September after finding Canal Plus hadn’t met the conditions imposed to win the 2006 authorization.

The Competition Authority will report in June on its review of the impact of online retailers on traditional store sales, and the role third parties like shipping companies and payment processors play in influencing Internet shoppers.

In March, the regulator will deliver interim findings in its investigation into the rising cost of automobile repair and maintenance.

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