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30 July 2012

Visa Europe May Get Antitrust Complaint on Credit Cards, EU Says

Visa Europe Ltd. may receive an antitrust complaint from European Union regulators over credit card fees, the EU’s competition commissioner said.

“We are preparing a supplementary statement of objections,” Joaquin Almunia told reporters today.

Visa Europe reduced similar fees for debit cards last year to settle a 2009 EU complaint. Almunia said earlier this month that he hoped the operator of the largest payment-card network in the 27-nation EU would reduce cross-border fees for credit cards and deferred-debit transactions to the same level as MasterCard Inc. (MA) He said in May that total costs retailers face to handle payments haven’t decreased since 2006.

“Visa Europe is committed to continuing dialogue to reach a commercially acceptable agreement for setting credit and deferred debit interchange,” said Amanda Kamin, a spokeswoman for the company in London. “We believe this can be done amicably and relatively speedily.”

Visa Inc. (V), MasterCard and some of the biggest U.S. banks this month agreed to a U.S. settlement of at least $6.05 billion in a price-fixing case brought by retailers over credit-card swipe fees.

Visa Europe split from Visa Inc. before the U.S. card company’s initial public offering in early 2008.

Retailers have long complained about the cost they are charged to accept card payments. Unlike for checks, banks charge interchange fees to process debit- and credit-card payments. Card operators set the amounts, own the payment networks and pass the money to the lenders. The retailer’s bank pays the fees to the customer’s card issuer.