PARIS — European Union merchants are unlikely to impose surcharges on customers who use credit or debit cards despite new rules that are expected to permit such fees, payments experts say.
The Payment Services Directive, which is to take effect by November, gives lawmakers in each E.U. country the right to determine whether merchants can demand surcharges for credit and debit card transactions.
Analysts said they anticipated only a few countries, such as France, would ban the practice.
In countries that already permit surcharges, however, including the United Kingdom, Holland and Sweden, few merchants charge such fees; the exceptions are generally online retailers.
"In the retail environment, it's a pretty disruptive form of interaction with your customer," said Joel Van Arsdale, an analyst at First Annapolis Consulting Inc. who is based in Holland. Merchants "tend not to get a favorable reaction."
Malte Kruger, a consultant at PaySys Consultancy GmbH in Germany, said processing fees are low in Holland and Sweden so that merchants have little incentive to impose surcharges.
Interchange fees in other parts of Europe are also coming down, reducing interest in surcharges, Kruger said. "Where it may become a topic is e-commerce. In e-commerce, payment costs are relatively high, so there is more of an incentive to surcharge."
In the United Kingdom, discount airlines and some other travel companies routinely surcharge for online card purchases.
And in Holland merchants charge more for people who pay with cards than for those who use a popular online payment system called iDeal, which is supported by several major Dutch banks. It lets people buy online using direct debits to their bank accounts.
Visa Inc.'s European franchise has done research that shows consumers dislike surcharges.
"If they are truly committed to displacing more cash payments," European authorities "need to consider the introduction and enforcement of real incentives that are capable of promoting the most efficient payment services," a Visa Europe representative wrote in an e-mail.