It is important that the supply of card-acquiring services works well for merchants, and ultimately consumers. To that end we are carrying out a market review of card-acquiring services. 

We first announced the review in July 2018 when we published the draft terms of reference. We have published, following consultation, the final terms of reference for the review.

Update (28/01/2019): This is an updated version of our final terms of reference for our market review into card acquiring services that removes a duplicate bullet point in paragraph 2.61 and replaces it with: services provided by card issuers (see paragraph 2.53).

What are card-acquiring services?

Card payment systems enable people to make payments using debit, credit, charge and prepaid cards when purchasing goods or services from a merchant. To accept card payments, merchants need to buy card-acquiring services.

Providers of card-acquiring services accept and process card payments on behalf of a merchant resulting in a transfer of funds to the merchant. Merchants can contract with acquirers or payment facilitators to obtain these services.

The costs merchants incur for such services may ultimately be reflected in the prices they charge and the services they provide to their customers.

Why we are conducting this review

Card payments are critical to the smooth running of the UK economy. They are a popular way for consumers to pay for goods and services, and their use is growing.

Stakeholders have raised concerns with us before, and have done so again in response to the draft terms of reference; this indicates that the supply of card-acquiring services may not be working well for merchants, and ultimately consumers.

As part of our work, we will examine how competition in the supply of card acquiring services operates. This includes looking at the fees merchants pay for card-acquiring services and the quality of service they receive.

What this document contains

This document sets out the final terms of reference, outlines our anticipated timetable of work and the potential outcomes of the review. 

How do the draft and final terms of reference differ?

We received 35 submissions. We have taken these submissions into account in finalising these terms of reference, which have helped us to clarify the scope of the review.

What happens now?

We are now in the information gathering phase of the review to collect further evidence and information from stakeholders including: providers of card-acquiring services (acquirers and payment facilitators); other parties that help merchants accept card payments such as Independent Sales Organisations, payment terminal suppliers and gateway providers; card scheme operators and merchants.

Our aim is to publish our interim report at the end of 2019. Following this, the PSR will publish a final report.

If we consider that we need to take further action we will set out and consult upon proposed actions. This will happen after publication of the final report.

Further input to this review

We welcome views and evidence which will help to inform our work, as outlined in this document. Please send your comments to or in writing to:

Card-acquiring market review team
Payment Systems Regulator
12 Endeavour Square
E20 1JN

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