Competition watchdog fines 11 French banks 384 million euros

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France's competition authority said Monday it had fined 11 big French banks 384 million euros (503 million dollars) for colluding to fix a commission they charged for handling cheques.

The banks in 2002 introduced a 4.3 euro cents commission per cheque, arguing that it was necessary to compensate for a loss of revenue which came after the cheque processing system was speeded up.

The banks argued that they were losing out on interest payments because they had to release the funds for the cheques sooner than under the previous processing system.

But the competition authority said in a statement that after conducting an inquiry it had concluded the commission charged was unjustified.

It noted that the banks stopped charging the commission in 2007 because of the "pressure of the inquiry."

© 2010 AFP

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