Credit card giant Visa has come under fire for trying to effectively ban the use of rival credit cards at the Olympic Games in London.
Visa, which is one of the official sponsors of the Games, has been accused of trying to monopolise the event by getting rid of any cash machines that accept rival cards.
The card company has confirmed it has ordered the closure of 27 cash machines at the various Olympic sites throughout London. But it is replacing them with just eight of its own-branded machines.
The Visa-only machines will be featured at the Olympic Park in East London and the Excel centre in the Docklands area. This will leave 34 venues without anywhere to withdraw money.
“The Olympics are going to be cash-starved by design. This is plainly unacceptable in a world where 85% plus of all transactions continue to be made using cash,” said Ron Delnevo, of the UK Payments Council.
Visa has been accused of “exploiting” consumers by some groups, who have argued that the company is trying to force customers into signing up for its contactless payment cards.
With just eight cash machines throughout the Olympic sites, the move has been seen as an attempt to get people to use the new cards, which allow customers to make payments of up to £15 by swiping it at a payment terminal.
“The Olympics do not belong to any sponsor, however much money they have paid for brand awareness. The Games are meant to be a celebration of the sporting prowess of men and women from every corner of our planet,” added Mr Delnevo.
“Sadly, it seems that the ideals of the Olympics now take a back seat whenever they get in the way of needs of commercial sponsors.”
Visa will also benefit from customers using regular credit or debit cards to pay for items, as it earns money from transaction fees levied whenever a purchase of this kind is made.
“This is shocking. It is a privilege to be a sponsor of the Olympics and they are abusing that privilege by exploiting consumers,” said Marc Gander, of the Consumer Action Group.
“Where are we heading with this? Will we cover up manhole covers with Thames Water on them because it is not a sponsor? This should be a joyous event and instead it is being marshalled in a controlled and rather sinister “1984” manner.”
Visa has said that debit cards, prepaid cards and credit cards, as well as cash, will all be accepted throughout the Olympic venues, adding that more than 115 million Visa cards are currently in circulation in the UK.