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COVID 19. Merchants obliged to accept payment cards regardless of the transaction amount

On 27 March Decree Law No 10 H/2020 of 26 March 2020 entered into force, establishing exceptional and interim measures to promote the acceptance of card based payments in view of the current COVID 19 pandemic. The announced measures are intended to facilitate and encourage card-based payments to the detriment of traditional means of payment, such as coins and banknotes. 

Until 30 June 2020 merchants with point of sale terminals may not refuse or limit card based payments for any goods or services, regardless of the transaction amount.

This Decree Law also lays down restrictions on the commissions and fees that payment service providers may charge to the payees of payment transactions (as a rule, merchants) for each card based payment transaction carried out at point of sale terminals (e.g. those usually referred to as 'merchant fees'). 

Thus, until 30 June 2020, payment service providers are not allowed to:

  • charge the fixed component of any fee per transaction;
  • increase the variable component of any fee per transaction;
  • increase fixed fees due for the use of point of sale terminals;
  • price new fixed or variable fees relating to the acceptance of card based payment transactions carried out at point of sale terminals (per payment transaction or for the use of point of sale terminals).

Payment service providers may charge merchants the variable component of fees for card based payment transactions carried out at point of sale terminals (i.e. the percentage share directly associated with the transaction amount). They may also continue to charge any fees for the use of point of sale terminals.

The impossibility for payment service providers to charge the fixed component of any fee per card based payment transaction applies to face to face payment transactions carried out at point of sale terminals, with physical or dematerialised payment cards.

After the expiry of the suspension period provided for in Decree-Law No 10 H/2020, payment service providers may not retrospectively charge the fees whose collection has been suspended or apply any interest for that period.