French watchdog fines HSBC

HSBC was among 11 banks fined €385m (£321m) by the French competition authority yesterday for collusion on setting cheque charges.

The banks, which include Credit Agricole, Société Générale and BNP Paribas, acted in concert to set interbank cheque fees on 80 per cent of cheques circulating in France between January 2002 and July 2007 as the system became computerised with the arrival of the euro, the authority said.

A spokeswoman for BNP Paribas, which was fined €63.3m, said the bank was "surprised" at the decision because the cheque fees had been conceived as "transitional" measures with full transparency and in full view of the authorities.

The fines were set according to each bank's market share of cheques in France, its weight in the economy and past practices. Credit Agricole was fined €100m while HSBC received a fine of €9m.