On 20 September 2010, following the opening of ex-officio
proceedings, the French Competition Authority (Authority) issued a
decision fining eleven banks for collusion during the transition to
a digital system for processing cheques.
For more than five years, these banks (Banque de France, BPCE,
la Banque postale, BNP-Paribas, la Confédération
Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, Crédit Agricole,
Crédit du Nord, Crédit Industriel et Commercial, LCL,
HSBC and Société Générale) charged
unjustified interbank fees of €0.043 on 80% of the cheques
exchanged in France.
The banks have also been fined for the imposition of two
additional sets of fees for "related
services". The Authority considered the level of
the fees imposed was not proportionate to the costs incurred by the
banks and ordered the revision of these fees. On the other
hand, six other sets of fees for "relatedservices" were deemed justified under competition
rules by the Authority.
The banks argued that interbank fees were set up in order to
offset fund losses caused by the acceleration of the interbank
clearing process. However, the Authority believed these fees
did not correspond to any services rendered. Further, the
transition to the new system did not result in net losses for the
When calculating the fine, the Authority took into account the
gravity and the duration of the collusion, as well as certain
mitigating circumstances and the damage to the economy.
The individual situation of each bank has been taken into
account when computing the applicable fine, such as market share
and economic power. The Authority also imposed a 10% increase
of the fine on banks that played a major role in the collusion and
a 20% increase on persistent offenders. The brunt of the
penalty was borne by BPCE, which was fined €90.9 million,
followed by Crédit Agricole (€82 million)
To view Community Week, Issue 490; 24th September
2010 in full,
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