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Visa Europe’s Bid to End EU Card-Fee Probe Faces Market Test

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- European Union antitrust regulators invited comments on Visa Europe Ltd.’s offer to cut “significantly” the fees it sets for processing cross-border credit-card payments in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe.

Visa Europe’s offer from last month would bring its fees into line with those of its main competitor MasterCard Inc., the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement today. The operator of the EU’s largest payment-card network has also offered to overhaul its rules so that banks will be able to apply a reduced interbank fee when they compete for clients across borders.

“If the proposals address the commission’s competition concerns, the commission may decide to make them legally binding on Visa Europe” in exchange for ending the probe, the regulator said.

The commission sent a formal complaint to Visa about the interchange fees last year, as part of a broader campaign it has waged against such charges. MasterCard has started a legal challenge against a settlement it reached with the commission in 2009 to avoid a daily penalty of as much as 3.5 percent of sales. The EU is also probing MasterCard’s bank fees on foreign card payments such as when tourists go shopping in the 27-nation bloc.

Visa Europe declined to comment beyond statements made when the commitments were offered last month.

That step was the “result of constructive dialogue between Visa Europe and the European Commission and is in line with the level of 0.3 percent established in the industry,” Peter Ayliffe, Visa Europe’s chief executive officer, said on May 14.

The EU regulator also announced today that it has closed a probe into the European Payments Council, an association of banks that seeks to standardize payments practices, after the body stopped its work on e-payment rules at the center of the probe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Brunsden in Brussels at jbrunsden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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