End of credit and debit card fees in Belgium

The Federal Council of ministers approved a bill to end credit and debit card fees last Friday.

The end of overcharges for card payments is something millions of Belgian residents have been waiting for years as some shops usually charge 30, 50 or 70 cents when paying by credit card.

We would like to foster electronic payments. They provide higher safety, as they reduce the circulation of cash. Electronic payments also ease the fight against fiscal fraud”, Kris Peeters, the Federal Minister for Economy, stated in a press release, after the Council of ministers approved the bill he proposed last week.

Although many may be quite happy about it,  Belgian authorities were actually late to enforce this law. It was an EU directive, which entered into force at the end of 2015, stipulating that the EU Member States should end overcharges for card payments as of 13 January 2018, except for American Express, Diners Club, and professional cards.

That means the Belgian authorities should have transposed this directive at the latest a month ago, and payers should not have been overcharged for all the card payments from January.

Therefore, Belgium can be praised for complying with the EU Law (even if the bill should be applicable only next summer), but the credit lies with the European Union.

The Council of ministers explicitly mentioned the need for transposition of the EU directive in a public working document on 9 February. And the Belgian authorities agreed on such a reform at the Council of the EU, before it was decided.

The only concern is about the credit Kris Peeters took for the bill, as Belgium had no choice in applying these provisions to Belgium legal order; the Belgian State could be fined before the Court of Justice of the European Union if it doesn’t comply with this directive.

This game of politics has not only taken place in Belgium. Theresa May, the British Prime minister, took such credit on the  January 13, the day when the directive should have applied to all EU Member states.

This point then raises the question with regard to the EU. National political leaders often criticises the EU when it “imposes” legislation such as hosting refugees or allowing all the EU citizens to work under the workers directive, but when it comes to positive and popular measures, such as the end of roaming or overbilling for card payments, many  “forget” to give credit where the credit is due.