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Visa shares fall after report says the DOJ is investigating possible anti-competitive debit card practices

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Norm Betts | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Visa shares fell sharply on Friday after the Justice Department issued a report opening an investigation into its debit card business and possible anti-competitive practices.

The department’s antitrust division has begun gathering information on whether Visa, the largest card network in the United States, has restricted merchants’ ability to route debit card transactions over lower-cost networks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified sources.

According to the sources, the DOJ investigators’ questions focus on online debit card transactions, but also include inquiries about problems in the business.

Visa, which had put pressure on its shares earlier Friday, fell abruptly from around $ 218.50 per share to around $ 209 per share, according to the Journal’s report. Due to his losses, the stock fell about 5% during the session.

The Justice Department and Visa declined to comment.

The research focuses on the role of network fees, fees that payment processors charge merchants to gain access to the processor’s vast network, the report said.

Investigators will try to determine whether Visa’s fee policy is unlawfully leading to unfair dominance, the Journal said.

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Katherine Clark