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U.S. antitrust authorities have challenged

First Data Corp.'s

(FDC) - Get Free Report

$7 billion acquisition of

Concord EFS

(CE) - Get Free Report

, saying the deal would hurt competition and lead to higher prices for debit-card transactions.

The U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division said seven states filed a lawsuit in Washington to stop the merger. "If allowed to proceed, the merger of two of the three largest PIN debit networks will lead to higher prices to merchants," R. Hewitt Pate, the Justice Department's antitrust chief, said in a press release.

Concord is the largest U.S. debit card network, while First Data is the third-largest. Earlier Thursday, D.A. Davidson upgraded shares of First Data to buy from neutral saying the company would benefit from high growth in the payment industry, regardless of the outcome of the pending merger with Concord. First Data was recently up 4.4%, or $1.59, to $37.49 while Concord was down 18%, or $2.51, to $11.07.