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WSJ: Visa, MasterCard campaigned to undercut rival’s debit cards

John Wilke reports on newly unsealed court documents in the antitrust lawsuit brought by many of the nation’s largest retailers including Wal-Mart.

Depositions and internal company memos depict the companies as paying banks millions of dollars to curtail rival debit-card transactions, demanding that merchants take their debit cards or lose access to credit-card sales, and even trying to disguise their debit cards so merchants couldn’t tell them from credit cards.

Natually, you’d expect competition to occur. The legal question is whether any of it was illegal in any way. Other questions include what the card association member banks actually thought about this competition — as they use products from all of the brands and networks!

Counsel for the merchants issued a press release this morning.

“The only substantial dispute now is what relief the court is likely to
ultimately award against Visa and MasterCard,” said Lloyd Constantine, lead
counsel for the merchants, and a principle in the New York firm of Constantine
& Partners. “These documents are compelling evidence of how Visa and
MasterCard violated U.S. antitrust law by attempting to monopolize the debit
transaction market and forcing merchants, through tying of products, to accept
offline debit transactions. Those offline debit transactions are slower, less
safe and cost merchants and their customers much more than online PIN debit,
cash or checks.”

More court documents are available for online review at the Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation Website.

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