The problem arises when politicians intervene to regulate the interchange rates that retail merchants pay. Regulating payment card fees has political appeal to elected officials who are told by retailers who claim to be speaking on behalf of consumers. These merchants tell the political class that if they pay lower, regulated interchange rates, they will pass those savings on to consumers.
In country after country, the reality is quite different. Sure enough, retail merchants benefit from the lower fees. But those benefits are passed on to the retail merchants’ shareholders, not to consumers as promised. Consumers end up paying higher fees — either through “checkout fees” (surcharges at the register) or higher banking fees.