Amazon tells folks it will stop accepting UK Visa credit cards via weird empty email
January cutoff postponed... for now cardholders can keep buying things they can't afford
Updated Amazon has confirmed it will no longer accept payment via Visa credit cards issued in the United Kingdom after several Reg readers wrote in complaining of a cryptic message they'd been sent this morning.
The online sales giant has indicated the move was "due to the high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions."
Visa seems to be hoping Amazon will budge, telling The Reg that it was "work[ing] toward a resolution so our cardholders can use their preferred Visa credit cards at Amazon UK without Amazon-imposed restrictions come January 2022."
According to a statement on Amazon's UK website:
Starting 19 January, 2022 we will no longer accept Visa credit cards issued in the UK.
The following payment methods are available for use:
Visa credit (until 19 January, 2022), Visa debit, Mastercard credit and debit, American Express, Eurocard, UK based Maestro.
One of the bemused readers this morning speculated that Amazon had either "just utterly borked a mailing test" or had just decided to "cut off probably around half their customers' payment options."
The online souk will still accept Visa debit cards, but many Brits purposefully use credit cards for big online purchases because it can protect you from fraud. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the retailer or trader. This means punters can make a claim with the credit card provider to get their money back for goods or services, provided they cost more than £100 and less than £30k.
The initial announcement to users was contained in an empty email with the subject line "Visa credit cards will not be accepted, starting 19 Jan, 2022" with nothing in the body text but a cryptic
=============================== Amazon.co.uk ===============================
While it included DKIM signatures for amazon.co.uk and amazonses.com, and looked like "a legit email," one reader mused: "Why are Amazon dropping Visa, and why would they inform customers in a basically blank email?"
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We're sure Amazon's move to restrict payments on Visa credit cards has nothing to do with its own Platinum Mastercard service.
Another Reg reader said she and her colleagues had all received the strangely empty mail, and they'd already been dealing with NatWest converting all of its debit cards to Mastercard from Visa.
The NatWest move happened back in February this year and affected all the banking group's retail and business debit cards in an agreement that covers all its brands: NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, and Coutts, "totalling 16 million cards."
NatWest stopped offering Visa credit cards in 2020.
The Amazon.co.uk website is run by Amazon Europe Core SARL and Amazon EU SARL, headquartered in Luxembourg. According to its full accounts made up to 31 December 2020 at Companies House, Amazon EU SARL had a net turnover of €43.84bn, up from €32.18bn the year before. The EU-registered firm has "branches" in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, and reports consolidated accounts under US parent firm Amazon.com Inc.
According to its latest annual accounts, it also holds at least 20 per cent of a limited UK services company as well as a limited Irish data services company, fulfilment centres in Poland and Spain, and a logistics unit in Italy.
Visa and Mastercard this year both raised their interchange fees from 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent for transactions made via credit card between the UK and the EU. The Commission caps these fees, but Brexit means the cap no longer applies to UK-EU transactions.
According to the FT, which broke the story in March, Visa also plans to increase so-called scheme fees on UK-EU transactions from July next year, as well as charging more for domestic payments using British company credit cards from April 2022.
Amazon and Mastercard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Visa spokesperson said: "UK shoppers can use their Visa debit and credit cards at Amazon UK today and throughout the holiday season.
"We are very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future. When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins. We have a long-standing relationship with Amazon, and we continue to work toward a resolution, so our cardholders can use their preferred Visa credit cards at Amazon UK without Amazon-imposed restrictions come January 2022."
Simon de Broise, a senior associate at Collyer Bristow LLP, commented: "It remains to be seen whether Amazon will make good on its threat, or whether there is a deal to be done, but either way it is a very significant development in the payments sector."
He added that the announcement "demonstrates how much the payments sector has matured in recent years.... Such a move against one of the card schemes would have been unthinkable even a few years ago, but retailers are now starting to benefit from the proliferation in the sector and so may feel that they can move away from the traditional players without damaging their businesses." ®
Updated to add at 12:21 on 17 January:
Amazon has been in touch with customers to say that the "expected change regarding the use of Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk will no longer take place on January 19."
It added: "We are working closely with Visa on a potential solution that will enable customers to continue using their Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk.
"Should we make any changes related to Visa credit cards, we will give you advance notice. Until then, you can continue to use Visa credit cards, debit cards, Mastercard, American Express, and Eurocard as you do today."
We have asked Visa about the implications and whether its stance on transactions fees has changed.