In what could be seen as a harbinger of events in the U.S., Visa Europe has been charged with anticompetitive behavior by European Union regulators after the card brand declined to cut its interchange fees as deeply in Europe as rival MasterCard has.The company’s fee guidelines prevent competition among Visa-issuing banks and drive up the costs for stores accepting credit cards, the European Commission said in a statement.Five days after settling with MasterCard, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes is seeking further fee reductions on the $2.1 trillion of annual card payments in the 27-nation bloc. Visa Europe, operator of the largest card network in the region, argued its system benefits consumers.The European Retail Round Table, an advocacy group for merchants including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Carrefour SA, has complained that the fee at issue raises costs by 13.5 billion euros a year.Visa Europe separated from Visa Inc. before the U.S. card company’s initial public offering about a year ago. The London-based company, which is owned by its member banks, has sought an agreement with the commission on interchange since a previous settlement expired at the end of 2007, according to the company.–[email protected]

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