Selva Ramasamy QC and Tom Broomfield represented Sulion Limited in an investigation conducted by the Payment Systems Regulator (“PSR”) into cartel activity in the UK pre-paid cards market. The investigation was opened in October 2017. Following searches in February 2018, the PSR announced its provisional findings in March 2021. All parties settled during the course of the investigation.
Mastercard, allpay Limited, Advanced Payment Solutions Limited (“APS”), Prepaid Financial Services Limited (“PFS”) and Sulion Limited, were found by the PSR to have infringed competition law by agreeing not to compete or poach each other’s customers in the UK prepaid cards market (an infringement of the prohibition imposed by section 2(1) of the Competition Act 1998). The PSR found that the infringement, specifically a market sharing cartel, continued for well over 5 years, between at least May 2012 and February 2018. The PSR also found that the arrangement had as its object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in relation to the supply of prepaid card services for welfare disbursements to public sector organisations in Great Britain, and may have affected trade within the UK. The PSR found that Sulion’s role was to act as facilitator.
The case focused on the activities of members of the National Prepaid Cards Network. The Network, which Sulion was found to have established in conjunction with Mastercard, aimed to increase the use of pre-paid cards in the public sector. Prepaid cards were, for example, increasingly used by local authorities to distribute welfare payments, which, despite the infringement, nevertheless presented a number of advantages to public bodies and consumers. The Network brought together public sector bodies (such as local authorities, housing associations etc.) and Mastercard programme managers (including allpay, APS and PFS). Mastercard sponsored and essentially funded the Network.
Mastercard were fined £31,560,062; PFS, £916,746; allpay, £28,553; APS, £755,419 and Sulion, £572