World Cup in credit card row

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The Independent Online

The consumers' group Which? has made a formal complaint to the European Commission over "anti-competitive" ticketing arrangements for next year's World Cup in Germany.

The consumers' group Which? has made a formal complaint to the European Commission over "anti-competitive" ticketing arrangements for next year's World Cup in Germany.

Which? claims the system discriminates against fans outside Germany and may breach the EC's own rules on competition. Tickets for matches in the early stages of the tournament can be bought only by using MasterCard, one of the sponsors, or by sending cash via a bank transfer - which can cost up to £30 - or via a German bank account.

The Football Supporters' Federation said fans are getting a "raw deal", but Fifa, the governing body of world football, claimed that the system is "fair" and said supporters will be able to use other cards later in the process and when tickets are allocated to individual national football federations.

Phil Evans, of Which?, said: "The deal struck between Fifa, the DFB and MasterCard is anti-competitive and puts football fans in the UK and around Europe at a disadvantage, as well as meaning they will incur additional and unnecessary costs.

"We are urging the European Commission to honour the pledge it made when a similar breach was alleged during the 1998 World Cup in France. Unless it takes action European competition laws will be breached again and again."

Philippe Ruttley, a partner at the law firm Clyde & Co, said: "The ticket sales arrangements for the 2006 World Cup discriminate against football fans not situated in Germany and force them to buy tickets initially through an exclusive route controlled by a single credit card operator - unless they hold a bank account in Germany or are prepared to carry out a bank transfer requiring additional expense.

"Such conditions are plainly unfair and discriminate against non-German EU football fans.

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