) -- The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the statements of banks and their trade associations regarding possible increases in consumer fees for using debit cards for possible violations of anti-trust laws.

Responding to a request for an investigation into whether banks coordinated their debit card fees by Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.,) the Justice Department said that it has a strong interest in ensuring "vigorous competition" among banks in the debit card services they provide to consumers and has pursued criminal and civil cases against the industry.

"Please be assured that if it finds that individuals, banks or other parties may have violated anti-trust laws, the Department will take appropriate action," Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in his letter.

Banks have withdrawn their plans to charge debit card fees amid heavy backlash from customers that prompted thousands to close their accounts with big banks on

Bank Transfer Day on Nov.5.

"I am pleased that the Justice Department is taking this request seriously," Congressman Welch said. "While big banks like Bank of America beat a hasty retreat on their debit card fee strategies, I have no doubt that they will continue their quest to dig deeper into the pockets of struggling consumers. As they consider their next move, they should be aware that there is a cop actively on the beat."

--Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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