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    MasterCard Seeks Separate Retailer Trials

    NEW YORK - MasterCard International said it plans on Friday to ask for a separate trial from Visa in an antitrust case brought against the credit card associations by 5 million retailers, Reuters reports.

    NEW YORK - MasterCard International said it plans on Friday to ask for a separate trial from Visa in an antitrust case brought against the credit card associations by 5 million retailers, Reuters reports.

    MasterCard said it would file a brief arguing that trying both companies together would confuse a jury and that there is no evidence that they conspired together.

    A lawyer for the retailers called the motion a delaying tactic.

    Merchants led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said in the 1996 lawsuit that Visa and MasterCard used their strength in the credit card business to crush smaller rivals in the debit card market. This resulted in higher fees for retailers, which passed them on to consumers.

    The suit is set for an April 28 jury trial in Brooklyn, but Visa and MasterCard have filed a joint motion to throw out the case. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson has not yet ruled on the matter, according to Reuters.

    MasterCard has long complained that a majority of the internal documents cited by the merchants' lawyers indict only Visa, and it has said it has a much more cordial relationship with smaller payment networks.

    Since the two companies are bitter rivals, to say they conspired together has no basis in law, MasterCard said.

    Lloyd Constantine, a lawyer for the merchants, said Visa and MasterCard have used a common defense throughout the trial and should be considered together because they are essentially owned by the same banks, all of which issue or have issued both brands of cards.

    Retailers say they are forced to accept debit cards that are verified with a signature and incur fees of $1.50 per $100 transaction. This compares with about 10 cents for purchases made using rival systems that are authorized by entering personal identification numbers. Such rival networks include Concord EFS Inc's STAR as well as PULSE and NYCE.

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