By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Caps on the fees retailers pay to process debit and credit card transactions have helped push down prices, EU antitrust regulators said on Monday, but merchants called for even tighter limits.

The Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR), which was triggered by a lengthy battle between retailers and payments groups including Visa and Mastercard, limits debit card fees at 0.2 percent of the transaction value and credit card fees at 0.3% of the transaction value.

“Interchange fees for consumer cards have decreased, leading to reduced merchants’ charges for card payments, and ultimately resulting in improved services to consumers and lower consumer prices,” the European Commission said in a report.

But retailers said loopholes in the IFR meant card payment companies could still impose hefty fees on some transactions, hurting shops and other businesses already struggling with the economic aftermath of COVID-19.

“Nearly 80% of card transactions in Europe are handled by two American companies with global reach,” EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said in a statement.

“Merchants in retail and wholesale, as well as in hospitality, tourism, and air travel, who have already been hit commercially by COVID-19, have seen these companies raise fees not covered by the Interchange Fee Regulation by some 50%,” he said.

EuroCommerce members include Carrefour, Ikea, Tesco, Metro, Marks and Spencer, REWE, Coop and Inditex.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)