- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Visa USA has reached a tentative settlement with Wal-Mart and thousands of other retailers just before their multibillion-dollar lawsuit over the company's popular debit cards was set to go to trial, both sides said late last night.
Visa USA said in a statement that it had reached "an important agreement in principle" with the plaintiffs and would change its debit-card policies.
The deal is worth $2 billion, with terms similar to those agreed to between the retailers and MasterCard International on Monday, a source close to the plaintiffs told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The retailers say Visa and MasterCard trapped them into paying high fees by demanding that stores that accept their credit cards also accept their debit cards.
Visa Vice President Daniel Tarman said that beginning in January, merchants can decide whether they want to continue to accept Visa's debit cards.
"We believe this settlement is a reasonable and responsible resolution that serves the interests of consumers, merchants and our member financial institutions," Mr. Tarman said.
The deal still must be approved by the trial judge.
Retailers, who filed suit seven years ago, say the process ultimately costs consumers more money. The debit cards use a customer's signature to verify a transaction. Many merchants would rather use less expensive, independent networks that clear debit-card transactions using a personal identification number.

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