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EU Commission says Visa Europe offers cut in fees

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Visa Europe, the European licensee of Visa Inc. , has offered to cap its inter-bank credit card fees at 0.3 percent of transaction value for four years, the same level as the rival MasterCard network, to end a European Union competition investigation and stave off a possible fine.

The European Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that the proposed reduction meant fees levied by Visa Europe, which is owned and operated by more than 3,700 European member banks, would be about 40-60 percent lower than at present. The offer is for cross-border and domestic fees.

Visa Europe came under fire in July last year when the regulator said its fees harmed competition between banks and led to higher consumer prices.

Its credit and debit cards account for about 41 percent of all payment cards issued in Europe, making it the largest card network in the 27-country European Union.

In addition to cutting its fees, Visa Europe also offered to reform its rules, making it easier for businesses to seek better cross-border deals from competing banks.

The EU antitrust authority said those interested in the matter will be able to comment soon on Visa Europe's proposal before it decides whether to accept the offer.

MasterCard, Europe's second biggest credit and debit card network operator, capped its fees in 2009 in response to an EU investigation.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Greg Mahlich)