By Joe Hoppe


A U.K. regulator has fined five companies more than 33 million pounds ($45 million) for agreeing not to compete or poach each other's customers in the country's prepaid-cards market.

The Payment Systems Regulator said it has fined Mastercard Inc. GBP31.6 million, with the rest of the fines levied on Prepaid Financial Services Ltd., allpay, Advanced Payment Solutions and Sulion Ltd. after concluding the parties infringed competition law.

The prepaid cards were used by U.K. local authorities to distribute welfare payments to vulnerable members of society, such as the homeless, asylum seekers and domestic violence victims.

The investigation was opened in October 2017, after allpay made a complaint to the regulator. The regulator found two market-sharing cartels, one of which was run from 2012 to 2018 and involved all parties--though some for less than the whole period--and the other run for two years by Advanced Payment and Prepaid Financial.

"This case is particularly serious because the illegal cartel behavior meant there was less competition and choice for local authorities. This means they may have missed out on cheaper or better-quality products which were used by some of the most vulnerable in society," said Chris Hemsley, managing director of the regulator.


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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2022 04:44 ET (09:44 GMT)

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