Mastercard and four other companies have been fined more than £ 33 million for operating a cartel in the prepaid card market for vulnerable people.
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) said on Tuesday the companies had violated competition law by agreeing not to strip customers of the cards, which are used to distribute welfare payments to vulnerable people such as the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
Mastercard was fined £ 31.5 million with the remainder split between Prepaid Financial Services, allpay, APS and Sulion after the investigation, which relates to cartels operated between 2012 and 2018.
This is the first time the PSR has imposed a financial fine.
“This investigation and the substantial fines we have imposed send a clear message that the PSR has no tolerance for cartel behavior,” said Chris Hemsley, PSR managing director.
He added: “This case is particularly serious because the illegal cartel behavior has meant that there has been less competition and choice for local authorities. This means that they may have missed cheaper or better quality products used by some of the most vulnerable in society. ”
Mastercard said: “We apologize that the actions of two former employees have resulted in the standards expected of us not being met in this case.”
It added: “We have taken this issue very seriously and have put in place further controls and training to ensure that it can not happen again, while working with the PSR to resolve this issue at the earliest possible opportunity. . “