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Visa, MasterCard in $6 Billion Settlement

"What we need are changes in the rules that bring about transparency and competition that would be here for years to come," he said.

The dispute between stores and banks dates back to 2005. That's when large retailers, including Kroger, Safeway (SWY) and Walgreen Co. (WAG) began filing price-fixing lawsuits against Visa, MasterCard and other banks.

The retailers claimed the credit card issuers worked together to fix the fees that stores pay to accept credit and debit cards. The fees, which vary depending on the type of store and the type of card issues, average about 2% of the price of a purchase.

Visa and MasterCard make money on the fees that stores pay for each customer that uses credit or debit cards for their purchases. The fees are set by card processing networks but collected by, and split with, the banks that issue the cards.

The card companies long have defended the fees they charge stores. They say stores benefit from being able to accept credit and debit cards from customers, who often spend more when they're using plastic instead of cash or checks.

Retailers fought to charge customers who use plastic for their purchases extra. They've argued that the ability to charge customers who use plastic more for their purchases would reduce their costs for accepting the cards.

But up until now, Visa and MasterCard have banned stores from charging customers who use credit cards more. Merchants, however, have been allowed to offer customers discounts if they pay with cash. Some gas stations do this, for example.

As part of the settlement, credit card companies have agreed to reduce swipe fees for eight months. The temporary reprieve on fees is valued at $1.2 billion. The settlement does not apply to debit cards, which have grown in popularity for small-value transactions.

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