Portuguese Antitrust Watchdog Fines SIBS Group €13.8bn For Breaking Competition Law

March 21, 2024
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The Autoridade da Concorrência has fined the SIBS Group for forcing card issuers and acquirers seeking to access the SIBS Group's payment schemes to also contract its processing services.

The Autoridade da Concorrência (AdC) has fined the SIBS Group for forcing card issuers and acquirers seeking to access the SIBS Group's payment schemes to contract its processing services.

SIBS Group, Portugal’s payment system, will need to pay €13.8bn after having been found to have broken competition law. 

The entities targeted by the AdC's decision are: SIBS SGPS, SIBS FPS, SIBS MB and SIBS Cartões.

The AdC’s investigation revealed that during the infringement period, card issuers and acquirers seeking to access the SIBS Group’s payment schemes, particularly the MB scheme, MB WAY and other MULTIBANCO network payment services, were required to also contract the SIBS Group’s processing services, without the possibility of contracting access only to the payment schemes.

Besides the SIBS Group, there are alternative processors operating in Europe that could offer their services in Portugal and even some acquirers capable of processing their own transactions that were prevented from doing so in order to accept payments under the SIBS Group’s schemes.

The access to these payment schemes is necessary for an issuer to provide cards to allow payments under these brands to consumers using the service. 

Acquirers also need to access the MB scheme and MB WAY to enable merchants to accept these payments in physical stores.

This practice, which lasted for about three years, limited the entry and expansion of competing processors of the SIBS Group, which maintained market shares exceeding 90 percent in the markets for processing services throughout this period. 

The case was initiated ex officio by the AdC in November 2020, following a supervision and monitoring procedure of the financial sector, in particular an inquiry directed at a group of fintech companies. 

Subsequently, in January and February 2021, the AdC conducted dawn raids at the SIBS Group’s premises located in Lisbon.

Then, in July 2022, the AdC adopted a Statement of Objections in the context of this case, subsequently providing SIBS Group with the opportunity to exercise its right to be heard and the rights of defence, which were duly considered in the final decision.

Going forward, the AdC's sanctioning decisions may be subject to appeal. 

SIBS Group declined to comment at the time of publication.

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