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U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Amex Rules in Antitrust Enforcement Test

  • Justices appear divided over steering rules on merchants
  • U.S., states say Amex rules harm competition with other cards
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Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared divided over whether rules American Express Co. imposes on merchants violate antitrust laws, in a case that will affect not only the credit-card business but may also limit future enforcement against dominant companies.

Two of the the court’s liberal members -- Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- signaled at arguments Monday that they back the government’s claim that the company’s rules harm competition by preventing retailers from encouraging customers to use lower-cost cards. Merchants can’t offer consumers a choice between earning a discount by using another card or sticking with an American Express card so they can earn rewards, Sotomayor said.