Department of Justice Antitrust Division pursues credit card companies

WASHINGTON — One week after the Senate failed to pass an amendment that would have delayed swipe-fee reform for an additional 12 months, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division reportedly is addressing anticompetitive practices related to credit cards.

The agency has submitted a final consent decree in its enforcement action against Visa and MasterCard, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Swipe fees are charged by banks, which adhere to the fees set by card companies, to process debit card transactions. Swipe fees currently are 1% to 2% of each transaction and often are passed along to customers through higher prices of goods and services.

“This is just a first step, but a vital one, to help alleviate some of the card network restraints on FMI members’ ability to provide discounts to their customers," FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin said. "This enforcement action is focused on anticompetitive practices related to credit cards, and re-enforces the need for credit card transactions to be subject to the same reforms authored by [Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who introduced the Credit Card Fair Fee Act in 2009] related to debit cards. Visa and MasterCard have hundreds of pages of non-negotiable, take-it-or-leave-it network rules that have stifled and continue to stifle market competition.”