Competition in payments markets, investigating allegations of anti-competitive conduct, and protecting the interests of consumers will be the focus of the ACCC’s financial services enforcement and policy work over the next year, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a speech to the Australian Financial Review Banking Summit today.

“Payment systems, services and competitors are rapidly evolving,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We are committed to promoting and protecting competition in this important sector, particularly in the face of these rapid developments, and will take strong action to address any anti-competitive behaviour.”

Ms Cass-Gottlieb’s comments were made just one day after the ACCC instituted proceedings against Mastercard for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive conduct with the purpose of substantially lessening competition in the supply of debit card acceptance services.

The ACCC alleges that in response to the least cost routing initiative, Mastercard entered into agreements with more than 20 major retail businesses that gave these businesses discounted rates for Mastercard credit card transactions, provided they committed to processing all or most of their Mastercard-eftpos debit card transactions through Mastercard rather than the eftpos network.

“We allege that Mastercard had substantial power in the market for the supply of credit card acceptance services, and that a substantial purpose of Mastercard’s conduct was to hinder the competitive process by deterring businesses from taking advantage of least cost routing to use eftpos for processing debit transactions,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Our case against Mastercard highlights that the ACCC will be vigilant about attempts to reduce the impact of regulatory reforms designed to enhance competition - in this case, the Reserve Bank’s ‘least cost routing’ initiatives.”

“We are committed to supporting the Government’s consideration of competition issues and working with the Government to ensure that the regulatory framework for payments is designed to facilitate dynamic and innovative markets and good consumer outcomes.”

During her keynote speech, Ms Cass-Gottlieb highlighted the ACCC’s consideration of competition issues which arise in connection with the shift towards digital payments, including through the ACCC’s Digital Platform Services Inquiry.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb also touched on other areas where the ACCC has been working alongside other regulators and industry to promote competition and enhance consumer protections. These include measures to help disrupt financial services scams, including cryptocurrency scams, and the ongoing rollout of the Consumer Data Right to within the banking sector and soon to other sectors.

The full speech is available at: ACCC's priorities and approach to regulating the financial services sector