Visa Cooperates With DOJ Antitrust Probe Into Debit Card Practices

The U.S. Justice Department is continuing its investigation into Visa’s debit card practices.

The payments giant is cooperating with the probe, which is “seeking additional documents and information focusing on U.S. debit and competition with other payment methods and networks,” Visa said in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing Friday (Jan. 27).

As PYMNTS has written, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ‘s antitrust arm began investigating Visa in 2021 for allegedly anticompetitive debit card processes in the debit card industry. That meant collecting data and determining whether Visa prevented retailers from sending debit card transactions through lower-lost card networks.

PYMNTS has contacted Visa for comment but has yet to receive a reply. The company’s new SEC filing also said the company had been notified last month by the European Commission of an investigation of Visa’s incentive agreements with clients.

The news comes a little more than a month after a proposed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) order that would require Mastercard to share the customer account information needed to process debit payments with competing networks.

“This is a victory for consumers and the merchants who rely on debit card payments to operate their business,” Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a news release in late December.

The FTC order focuses on tokenized transactions, referring to the process of substituting a sensitive data element with a non-sensitive equivalent, known as a token, that carries no extrinsic or exploitable meaning or value. The token is a reference that maps back to the sensitive data via a tokenization system. 

PYMNTS wrote in October that the FTC was looking into whether Mastercard’s and Visa’s security tokens prevent debit-card routing competition on certain digital payments.

Visa’s SEC filing was part of the company’s quarterly earnings report, which showed the company making continued strides in new payment flows, including Visa Direct and contactless payments, PYMNTS reported.

Payments volume for the three months ending Dec. 31 rose 7% over the previous year on a constant-dollar basis, while cross-border volume, excluding intra-Europe, climbed 31%. As seen with Mastercard, travel-related and cross-border spending saw a strong snapback amid an increase in customer travel.

CEO Al Kelly, who is stepping down to be replaced by president Ryan McInerney, said that within consumer payments, credentials increased 11% — not including Russia — “with strong double digit growth in the United States, India and Brazil.”

Kelly noted that tap-to-pay penetration of face-to-face transactions was 72%, excluding Russia and the U.S. He added that some verticals in the U.S. saw a significant uptick in contactless payments, as U.S. drug stores were higher than 40% penetration for the first time.