Justice Department initiates antitrust probe into Visa’s fee changes

The U.S. Department of Justice has instigated a civil investigative demand into Visa Inc.’s recent fee changes made in the wake of increased federal regulations on debit card processing.

Chairman and CEO Joseph Saunders of Visa said on Wednesday that the DOJ requested information regarding “elements of [Visa’s] new debit strategies” and the card processor’s PIN-debit system, according to Fox Business.

“In March, we met with the [DOJ] twice and provided materials in response,” to the request, Saunders said, Fox Business reports. “We are confident our actions are appropriate and that our response to the DOJ supports that.”

Though Saunders did not specify which aspect of Visa’s strategy that the DOJ is interested in, he did say that the request came from the agency’s antitrust department. Saunders also said that the possible outcomes that could result from the DOJ probe are established in Visa’s earnings outlook.

In 2008 the DOJ initiated an antitrust investigation into Visa’s merchant acceptance rules. The DOJ alleged that certain company policies discouraged merchants from “steering,” as the practice is called, customers towards cards that have lower processing fees. The practice was only allowed under certain circumstances, according to RTT News.

The company admitted no wrongdoing, but in October 2010, agreed to change company policies to allow merchants to steer customers towards a particular payment.

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