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EU regulators put Visa Europe's antitrust concessions to rivals

A Visa logo is seen during the International CTIA WIRELESS Conference & Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardn
A Visa logo is seen during the International CTIA WIRELESS Conference & Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardn

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators asked Visa Europe's customers and rivals to assess its offer to cap inter-bank credit card fees at the same level as competitor MasterCard , a concession intended to end an antitrust investigation and avoid a possible fine.

Visa Europe, which is the European licensee of Visa Inc. and is owned and operated by more than 3,700 European banks, found itself the target of an investigation by the European Commission last year. Regulators said its fees harmed competition and led to higher consumer prices.

The network, which accounts for about 41 percent of all payment cards issued in Europe, subsequently offered to cut its inter-bank credit card fees by about 40-60 percent, to 0.3 percent of the value of each transaction.

The Commission unveiled details of the proposal last month, which also included revamping rules making it easier for businesses to seek better cross-border deals from competing banks.

"The Commission is now seeking feedback on these proposals from interested parties through a market test," it said in a statement on Thursday. The executive EU body acts as antitrust regulator across the 27-country bloc.

"If the proposals address the Commission's competition concerns, the Commission may decide to make them legally binding on Visa Europe."

Accepting the offer would mean no finding of wrongdoing nor any fine for Visa Europe.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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