WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has begun an antitrust investigation of pricing practices in the nation's $500-billion credit card industry.
"The antitrust division is looking into possible anti-competitive practices that may have reduced competition in certain aspects of the credit card industry," division spokeswoman Gina Talamona said.
The industry, led by Visa and MasterCard, has doubled in size in the last six years as consumer borrowing has increased. At the end of last year, there were 288 million credit cards in the United States alone, with balances totaling about $197 billion.
The American Bankers Assn. received a Justice Department civil investigative demand, the civil equivalent of a subpoena, in early November.
Visa said it received a request for information from the department in June, though it didn't get a subpoena.
"The Justice Department has requested information from scores of companies in dozens of industries," Visa spokesman David Brancoli said. "We have absolutely no reason to believe price fixing is the subject of this inquiry."