Justice Dept. To Put Debit Card Fees Under Antritrust Microscope

Even though Bank of America and a few others have — for now — ditched their plans to charge customers a monthly fee for making purchases with debit cards, the Justice Department has decided to look at the possible antitrust considerations surrounding the controversial proposals.

In a letter to Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont, one of several legislators who had asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the fees, an assistant attorney general with the DOJ writes:

The Department of Justice has a strong interest in ensuring vigorous competition among banks in the debit card services they provide to consumers, and in recent years, it has vigorously pursued both criminal and civil cases in this industry…

The Department of Justice is reviewing the statements and actions by banks and their trade associations regarding possible increases in consumer fees for using debit cards. Please be assured that if it finds that individuals, banks, or other parties may have violated antitrust laws, the Department will take appropriate action.

The legislators have asked DOJ to look into whether or not the banks colluded and coordinated their debit card fee strategies, which would be in violation of antritrust regulations.

Writes Welch about the news that that DOJ is looking into matter:

While big banks like Bank of America beat a hasty retreat on their debit card fee strategies, I have no doubt that they will continue their quest to dig deeper into the pockets of struggling consumers… As they consider their next move, they should be aware that there is a cop actively on the beat.

DOJ responds to Welch request for debit card fee anti-trust investigation [Welch.House.Gov]