Ohio AG joins fed suit against credit-card companies

COLUMBUS — Ohio and five other states today joined the U.S. Department of Justice in a civil antitrust lawsuit challenging rules made by American Express, MasterCard and Visa that prevent merchants from offering consumers discounts, rewards and information about card costs, ultimately resulting in consumers paying more for their purchases.

"When you see a sign on a cash register requiring a minimum purchase or extra fee for using a credit card, it's because of the unfair practice established by these companies," Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said. "Merchants are charged a 'swipe fee' for each brand of credit card — but they can't tell consumers what those costs are or otherwise reward consumers for using less-expensive credit cards to make a purchase. Those agreements stifle competition at the cash register. And we all know how those 'gotcha' fees add up."

The attorneys general of Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri and Texas also signed onto the litigation, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Visa, MasterCard and American Express handled more than $1.6 trillion in transactions last year, Cordray said.

Visa and MasterCard settled with the Department of Justice immediately after the complaint was filed.

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