British arm of Prepaid Financial Services fined nearly £1m

Five companies fined over £33m for cartel behaviour in prepaid card market in Britain

The company has been fined nearly £1 million (€1.19 million) by a UK regulator

The company has been fined nearly £1 million (€1.19 million) by a UK regulator

 

The British arm of Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), which is under investigation by the Irish Central Bank, has been fined nearly £1 million (€1.19 million) by a UK regulator.

It is one of five companies, including Mastercard, to receive fines of more than £33 million by the Payment Systems Regulator following the conclusion of an investigation into two cartels in the prepaid cards market.

PFS is owned by EML Payments, an Australian fintech that acquired the company and its British subsidiary in a multimillion euro deal from its founders Noel and Valerie Moran in 2019.

However, it has been under investigation by the Irish regulator over money laundering and counter-terrorism concerns, and risk and control frameworks and governance.

While it has yet to conclude its inquiry, the Central Bank last August gave permission for PFS to begin signing new customers, albeit with restrictions in place.

This came after the regulator told the company it had not identified any instances of financial crime, anti-money laundering or counter-terrorism financing events, nor deficiencies with respect to safeguarding, capital adequacy or solvency measures.

Fines

The fines levied against PFS’s British unit and the four other financial services companies come after the Payment Systems Regulator concluded last year that the firms infringed competition law by agreeing not to compete or poach each other’s customers in relation to prepaid cards used by local authorities to distribute welfare payments to, among others, the homeless, victims of domestic abuse and asylum seekers.

Mastercard received the largest fine of £31.56 million, PFS’s penalty totalled £916,746 while Allpay, APS and Sulion received smaller penalties.

EML Payments is facing a class action lawsuit in Australia on behalf of shareholders after shares in the fintech slumped on news of the Central Bank inquiry.

The Morans are also weighing up legal action amid claims the fintech saw an opportunity because of the investigation into the business to avoid paying out on the final €55 million part of the deal for the company.