The economics of payment systems and networks has become a topic of frequent debate and litigation in recent years. To facilitate further research and greater understanding, Coherent Economics is undertaking to identify, organize, and make available a comprehensive set of materials covering the economics of payment systems.
Payment systems is the raison d'être of Coherent Economics and the inspiration for the company's name. Dr. Alan Frankel is a leading expert in the analysis of competition in payment systems and networks. His seminal 1998 article, "Monopoly and Competition in the Supply and Exchange of Money," introduced the term "price coherence" into the economic lexicon to refer to a type of market failure that can occur in payment systems.
Dr. Frankel began studying competition in payment systems in the late 1980s. Since then, he has written and spoken about payment system issues on many occasions, and he has been involved in many proceedings involving credit and debit card markets. He has served as an expert in payment system matters on behalf of competition authorities in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other jurisdictions. He has served as an expert in proceedings on behalf of consumers, merchants, merchant associations or other private parties in Australia, the European Union, and the United States.
In the United States, Dr. Frankel testified at trial on behalf of consumers in the first proceeding regarding then-undisclosed fees imposed by credit card companies embedded in transaction amounts originally denominated in foreign currencies. The "currency conversion fee" litigation led ultimately to settlements in excess of $380 million and enhanced disclosure of the fees.
Also in the United States, Dr. Frankel served as the economic expert with respect to liability and damages issues on behalf of the class of merchants in the case In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, which led to what has widely been reported as the largest-ever proposed private settlement in an antitrust case, valued at over $6 billion, plus changes to MasterCard and Visa merchant rules.
Dr. Frankel appeared on three occasions at hearings by the European Commission in Brussels on behalf of an association of European merchants concerning MasterCard or Visa interchange fees. The Commission's decision that MasterCard's cross-border interchange fees were unlawful was upheld on appeal.
In New Zealand, Dr. Frankel served as an expert for the Competition Commission in cases regarding currency conversion fees and cases involving interchange fees and merchant rules, which led to settlements that included significant reforms to network rules and practices in New Zealand.
In Australia, Dr. Frankel has made several presentations to the Reserve Bank of Australia since 2001 regarding interchange fees and merchant rules, and was one of two invited economists to make presentations at a 2007 conference co-hosted by the RBA to review its payment system reforms.