§ Brian Cotter
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent estimate he has made of the cost of bank charges to retailers for credit and debit card transactions. 
§ Ruth Kelly
[holding answer 10 February 2003]: The Cruickshank report on Competition in UK Banking (published in March 2000) examined, among other things, issues relating to payment systems—including the cost of bank charges to retailers for credit and debit card transactions. The Government has not made any recent estimates of such charges. However, it is closely monitoring developments in payment systems and remains committed to introducing legislation to give the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) new powers to promote effective competition in payment systems—and will do so as soon as parliamentary time allows.
To promote its understanding of how payment systems operate, and to help pave the way for its prospective powers, the OFT announced on 27 November that it would conduct an empirical study into recent payment system developments. The terms of reference of this study were published on 31 January 2003—and include issues related to pricing in the credit and debit card markets. The OFT has undertaken to publish a report outlining its assessment and conclusions in spring 2003.