Visa says the DOJ plans to probe its debit card practices, shares fall 6%

Visa says the DOJ plans to probe its debit card practices, shares fall 6%

Visa shares dropped sharply Friday after a report said the Justice Department has opened an investigation into its debit card business and possible anticompetitive practices.

The company said Friday afternoon that investigators have started to collect information on Visa debit practices.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the probe, said the DOJ is seeking to determine whether the largest card network in the United States has curbed merchants’ capacity to route debit-card transactions over less-expensive networks.

Sources told the Journal that investigators’ questions are centered on online debit-card transactions but have also included inquiries about in-store issues. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Visa, which had seen its shares under pressure earlier on Friday, abruptly fell from around $218.50 per share to under $207 by Friday’s close. The losses put the stock down more than 6% on the session.

The probe focuses on the role of network fees, charges that payments processors bill to merchants in exchange for access to the processor’s vast network, according to the Journal’s report. Investigators will reportedly seek to determine if Visa’s fee policies unlawfully give it unfair market dominance.