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DOJ responds to calls for debit card fee anti-trust investigation

Peter WelchThe Justice Department has started its antitrust review of statements and actions by banks and their trade associations that are charging debit card fees on customers.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) requested the investigation in Oct., Bloomberg.com reports. Welch, along with five House Democrats, wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate U.S. banks and their trade groups and determine if they had colluded on imposing the new fees in response to the Durbin Amendment.

On Tuesday, Welch received a written response from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.

“Please be assured that if it finds that individuals, banks or other parties may have violated the antitrust laws, the department will take appropriate actions,” Weich’s letter read, according to Bloomberg.com.

Once the Federal Reserve imposed the fee cap on debit card interchange, banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo considered new debit card fees for customers.

Plans to charge monthly debit card fees, however, have since been dropped by the banks.

John Berlau, the director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free- market policy group, said that the banks’ decision to drop the proposed fees proved they weren’t price-fixing.

“The fact that Bank of America dropped the debit card fee due to competition from other banks and credit unions, shows there was no conspiracy – just different responses to the massive new costs of the price controls in the Durbin Amendment,” Berlau said, Bloomberg.com reports.

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