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Visa Sued by Australian Regulator Over Currency Policy

Visa Inc., the world’s biggest payments network, contravened Australia’s consumer protection laws by preventing buyers from using a currency of their choice when shopping, the country’s competition regulator said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said in an e-mailed statement that it sued Visa in federal court, claiming the company prevented the expansion of so-called dynamic currency conversion services. A copy of the claim wasn’t immediately available from the court.

Dynamic currency conversion services give customers the choice of completing a transaction in their home currency or in the local currency of the retail store or bank cash machine. A cardholder who chooses DCC receives a locked-in exchange rate that’s disclosed at the time of the transaction, the ACCC said.

“The ACCC is concerned that Visa sought to stop the growth of competing dynamic currency conversion services,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in the statement. Visa earned less revenue when a cardholder selected DCC, the regulator said.

Visa strongly rejects allegations that its rules on DCC services infringe Australia’s competition laws, spokeswoman Zoe Hibbert said in a statement. The company will vigorously defend against the claims, according to the statement.

Visa has banned the use of DCC on transactions at cash machines in Australia since at least October 2007, the ACCC said. The company also engaged in exclusive deals, supplying access to its payment network to Australian banks and retailers on the condition they didn’t use DCC, the regulator said.

A hearing in the case is scheduled in Sydney for March 14, according to the statement.

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