Eleven French banks, BNP Paribas SA, Groupe Credit Agricole, BPCE SA and eight other banks were a fined a total of 384.9 million euros ($504 million) after France's competition regulator said an electronic check-processing program improperly levied fees on consumers.
BPCE, France's second-largest bank by branches, was fined 90.9 million euros, the largest penalty. Credit Agricole was fined 82.9 million, the Autorite de la Concurrence said in a statement.
The banks set a 4.3 euro-cent charge to exchange check images between lenders, one of nine interbank charges introduced when they switched to electronic processing. The check image fee was charged from January 2002 to July 2007, and only lifted "under the pressure of the ongoing proceedings," the regulator said, according to Bloomberg.
From January 2002 to July 2007, the banks have charged an unjustified €0.043 fee on 80% of the checks exchanged in France. For this infringement of competition rules, the banks have been fined €381.1 million.
The watchdog has also fined these banks for having enforced two additional fees for 'related services' that are still collected today. For this second infringement, the fines amount to a total of €3.8 million, MarketWatch reports.