Maximum Rates for Payments with “Dataphones” in Costa Rica Goes Into Effect

    The Central Bank foresees a positive impact of the new limits amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, in terms of employment and commercial operations

    Some 22 thousand businesses will save ¢ 66.577 million with the entry into force, as of Monday, November 23rd, of the new “ceilings” for the commissions charged by banks for each transaction carried out through dataphones in businesses.

    According to the Central Bank (BCCR) in its most recent technical report on the measure, the maximum will benefit all commercial sectors and company sizes, among which, small and medium-sized companies registered under the “rest of activities would concentrate 80% of the estimated savings.

    The Central Bank determined that banks charged “acquiring” commissions, on average, of up to 4.5% in educational centers, restaurants, and some businesses. In some cases, payments of up to 12% were identified. Now, with the new regulation, banks could charge only 2.5% in general terms and 1.5% for service stations, charities, regulated transport services, and tolls.

    The “acquiring” commissions refers to the charge that banks make on the value of the product that each cardholder consumes, and also consists of an annual fee that now may not exceed ¢ 20,000.

    A cap was also imposed on “exchange” commissions, which are charged to the issuer of each debit or credit card by the firm that offers the dataphone. They would be a maximum of 2% in general terms, and 1% on payments at service stations, charities, regulated transport services, and tolls. The rates are applied by legal obligation, after the National Assembly deputies approved a reform of the law with that objective, at the end of last March.

    Mixed-effects

    Regarding the possible effects of this reform, the Central Bank assured that an improvement in the price signal through payment systems could be expected. Likewise, it indicated that it provides greater transparency for the parties involved in the use of electronic means of payment and that generates a more progressive impact on the household economy since the costs for the use of data phones are also transferred to the prices received by those who are not banked.

    On the negative side, the BCCR indicated that a lower amount of benefits could be expected from the use of cards and an increase in commissions for services of lower values. Regarding the price of the products, the issuer explained that there is no evidence that the regulation of commissions is transferred to prices, but there is evidence that it stabilizes them in the longer term. Likewise, noted that the savings generated by the lower cost of dataphones could alleviate the economic impact caused by the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic.

    “It is conceivable that if the reduction in interchange fees is retained by merchants and not passed on directly to the consumer, merchants use the greater resources derived from the reduction in commissions to expand their business or increase employment, an element that would be very relevant in the current national context, due to the health crisis”, the entity stressed in its technical report on the new limits.

    Costa Rica’s “acquiring” rates would now rank among the region’s average. They would be lower than that of countries such as Uruguay (3.5%), Mexico (2.95%), and Brazil (2.63%), but higher than that of Argentina (2%). In European countries, it is usually much lower, even below 1%.

    Progressive decrease

    The Central Bank intends that the “ceilings” may decrease over time. Two months ago, the national issuer indicated in a press release that “according to international evidence”, the levels of countries similar to Costa Rica “are around 1.25% for exchange and 1.75% for acquiring” and “It is foreseen that this adjustment could be achieved in about four years.” In Costa Rica, only six banks offer dataphones: Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica, Credomatic, Davivienda, Promérica, and Scotiabank.

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