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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah joined more than a dozen states Monday in an antitrust lawsuit against the nation's largest credit card companies.
The states argue that Visa, MasterCard and American Express prevent merchants from encouraging customers to use credit cards with lower merchant fees, which could translate into lower prices.
"The three credit card companies have such a high share of the market that merchants cannot afford to refuse their cards and they have no practical choice other than paying the higher fees," said assistant attorney general David Sonnenreich, who represents Utah in the suit.
The companies are restricting competition among credit cards based upon their merchant fees at the retail level, where sales actually take place, he said.
Visa and MasterCard have already agreed, without admitting any wrongdoing, to a settlement, which if approved by the court would end anti-competitive prices. American Express intends to fight the lawsuit.
The suit aims to get the credit card companies eliminate practices that allegedly restrain trade and allow merchants to offer discounts, rebates or other incentives to use a card with a lower fee.
The Department of Justice and seven states initially filed a complaint in October and 18 states have now joined the lawsuit.